My oh my, I do not miss Lou Lamiorello.
Traditional Leafs media are running away with the quotes from today’s Shanahan interview, talking about the process with signing William Nylander. It seems that I’m guilty of it as well, as we dive into what this could mean for Nylander’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Here is the full quote, from Jonas Siegel of the Athletic:
Interesting response today from Brendan Shanahan when asked about William Nylander’s contract negotiations: pic.twitter.com/d8VuB8tnES
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) October 3, 2018
And an additional quote from Terry Koshan, of the Toronto Sun:
Shanahan: "We see a great example with John Tavares, where we are able to attract a player like that who could have made more money elsewhere, who is still doing very well financially, but it was not his responsibility to set a new bar or to please other people." #Leafs #Nylander
— Terry Koshan (@koshtorontosun) October 3, 2018
These are strong words from Shanahan, who is rarely one to mince his speech to the media. Essentially, he is suggesting that Nylander needs to take a discount in order to keep this team together. Clearly that was the plan when signing Tavares; the elite talent would band together with lower salaries and create a dynasty.
But, it’s not the player’s responsibility to make a dynasty. It’s the player’s responsibility to fend for themself. The sports business is a cruel one, where one injury can make your career end in the blink of an eye, and where teams feel absolutely no loyalty to players – dealing them in the middle of the night, waiving them, treating them like assets. It’s a cold, hard business.
One can’t blame management for behaving this way; it’s their job to try to do whatever it takes to make the team the best it can be.
However, that’s not the job of the player. The player has a responsibility to play, to keep themselves healthy and strong, and to be a good human being. There’s no responsibility to take a discount on what they’d earn on an open market just so the GM’s job is easier.
Ultimately, when a team comes to the press with something like this that the press eats up, there is an interest to the team to do so. It’s not to stroke the chin of the media – there’s a self-serving interest at play. Obviously they feel the need to pressure Nylander’s agents by turning the press against Nylander’s bid for what they feel is fair compensation.
There’s certainly the threat here that the team’s frustration is growing and that Nylander might be on the way out, given that the season starts today and he still hasn’t signed. But the Shanahan-led management team isn’t stupid – they’re not going to deal a player at this kind of low point, where the metaphorical gun is to their heads. The flexibility they’d gain by playing hardball with Nylander isn’t worth selling him at a loss, and they know this. GM Kyle Dubas is a former player agent and he knows how this game can be played while keeping the band together.
From a hockey perspective, this is definitely going to hurt the team in the short term, but with such a talent gap between the top 3 Atlantic Division teams (Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Boston) and the rest of the division, they can afford to be patient and let these negotiations to play out until there’s a compromise that can be made.
Because of this, in the end, the RFA hammer and media pressure should do its job and force Nylander to a contract he doesn’t want to take. A trade seems incredibly unlikely. But it should be noted that this pressure is incredibly unfair to the players who make the business what it is and earn only morsels of the entire pie, and who have their character questioned simply for having an agent that represents the only interest that the player is responsible for: their own.