Monday Mailbag: I Guess We Just Worry About Contracts Now Edition

July is almost over. That’s bittersweet. We can reflect on this as a long ass month without hockey, or we can reflect on it as the month that John Tavares joined the Leafs and made us whole. Twas a beautiful month, but I’m hoping August will bring us some excitement via training camp invites, captaincy announcements, third jerseys, or literally anything that warrants some discussion of the Leafs. I can only take so much Bigfoot erotica (that’s a lie).

Anyways, you’ll see from the primary theme of the questions, the biggest news could be contracts, and we’ll answer those questions first…

Okay, so this question is easily a post unto itself, so it will eventually get that treatment, and I’ll aim for brevity here.

The model that Matt Cane uses to predict AAV and term has put William Nylander at 7.01M for 5 years. I don’t think you’ll find many people who aren’t expecting Nylander to come in around $7M, giving him a bit more than Pastrnak, who we all want to believe is the best comparison for him.

More favourably, Nik Ehlers signed a $6Mx6yr deal, and that really should be what the Leafs are benchmarking him to. That’s probably not going to happen either, because Nylander isn’t going to want to come in too low in comparison to Matthews, and Marner, who are up for contracts the following year. I don’t blame him on Marner, because I will forever insist that Nylander is the superior player, but Matthews is his own thing.

So we’ll look at Marner next, basically what Nylander gets, Marner should get, but the challenge there is that Marner is a former top 5 pick, and that may carry more weight than being a top 10 pick. This seems silly to me, but whatever. Marner had more points this season while being a year younger than Nylander, but the story is different when you look at their 5v5 numbers. Nylander has the added bonus of having potential to play center in the future, but if we’re being realistic, that’s not going to happen. They are both wingers. At best you pay Marner a little bit more. If you go to $7M with Nylander, you’ll probably go to $7.5M with Marner, but that should also make Marner the more expendable player somewhere down the line, because that’s a lot of money on the wing.

Matthews seems simple to me. He can have Jack Eichel’s contract. Sign him for $10M per year for 8 years and be happy to do it. Giving Matthews the same cap hit as the Leafs paid for John Tavares in unrestricted free agency seems silly to me, but $11M would be the most I could imagine, even $10M seems high, but it’s going to be hard to ignore the Eichel precedent.

I’d like to hope that these guys would take a small salary shave to ensure they could stay together, but that’s a lot to ask of a player and not something I’m comfortable factoring in to my very rushed and unresearched guesses.

My guess is that we have or are about to witness Jake Gardiner’s last season in Toronto. The youth movement is only going to continue and I’d have to imagine the next contracts from Liljegren, Sandin, and Dermott are already considerations of the Leafs front office and unless Marleau AND Zaitsev find new homes before next July, Gardiner is likely to be too pricey for the Leafs.

Of course, the cap could continue to go up. Of course there could be trades that give the Leafs the contract flexibility they crave. Who knows, maybe Kapanen and Johnsson don’t have top six forward potential and they re-sign on very reasonable bottom six deals.

Those are all factors, but my guess is that Jake Gardiner being brought back is more of a “nice to have” for the organization than an absolute necessity at this point. And I wonder even if they find the money, if they don’t want to pursue someone else with it instead given that not everyone loves Jake Gardiner as much as Leafs blogs do.

I imagine it’s something like this…


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  • mst

    Nylander is nothing compared to Marner. Pts/60 all situations regular plus playoffs Marner 3.20 Nylander 2.64. Nylander got to play with Matthew’s. Marner also had better corsi and fenwick. He had fewer give aways and more takeaways. He had more hits and more blocks. He even had a better faceoff % and he is a full year younger. Always the best player on his line Marner drove play. Unlike Nylander the perpetual passenger.

    Nylander loves have to throw data away like playoffs and power play points in order to make their man look good. I guess playoffs and power plays don’t matter in hockey eh?

    But before patting yourselves on the back too much remember that Nylander had 49 even strength points mostly playing with Matthews. Hyman played on the same line and he managed 40! That’s only a nine point difference and Hyman will never be confused with being an offensive star. Any of Johnsson, Kapanen Brown or even Leivo is better than Hyman. So exactly what is Nylander’s contribution at even? Probably not much more than any of those four.

    The last half of the season when Marner played with Kadri he scored at a 92 point pace. Next season he will play with Tavares and be granted far more icetime. Marner will continue to be the Leafs top offensive weapon for years to come. Nylander will be forgotten before the year is out.