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Maybe it’s Dubas, not Nylander, that’s the nightmare negotiator

Yes, it’s another Nylander contract article. And before we get into it, let’s establish something: Darren Dreger doesn’t really know anything about the Leafs and is sad because this new management group doesn’t feed him information like Nonis did, so his “Nylander is looking for Draisatl money” claims are likely trash. It’s perhaps best to completely ignore them.

The more realistic scenario is that Nylander is looking for David Pastrnak money, around $6.67-million annually, with a slight uptick since the cap has grown a little since last year. That ask would be totally reasonable. And you know what? While that does seem like fair number for those of us viewing from the outside, I think the Leafs don’t want to give it to him. Like, at all.

That’s right, maybe the toughest negotiator here isn’t Lewis Gross or Michael Nylander or whoever else we’re told to blame for this stalemate. Maybe it’s been overlooked that Dubas could be an extremely difficult negotiator, mainly because he’s so young and still relatively inexperienced at the pro level. He seems so friendly, how could he be a shark?

But Dubas did just spend three years learning from perhaps the least player-friendly general manager there’s ever been in Lou Lamoriello. It shouldn’t be entirely unexpected that he’s the one putting the squeeze on in this scenario.

This process of negotiating Nylander’s contract doesn’t just exist in a vacuum. It’s a domino in a line with Marner and Matthews getting their own new deals within the next twelve months. Hard-balling Nylander now and eventually locking him in to $6.0-million (Nikolaj Ehlers territory) a couple weeks from now instead of rushing into $6.7-million over the past summer, for instance, obviously saves the Leafs $700K per year on that deal, but then that likely cascades into savings on Marner and Matthews. Let’s say that’s another $500-700K on each of those, for the sake of a number. Now you’ve grinded out around $2-million dollars in cap space.

I realize I’m probably oversimplifying here, but this is how these negotiations have to go, and likely how the Leafs see things playing out. And, I mean, it is a simple process at its core: Save money now by pushing hard on Nylander, letting him sit games, and you have extra money to spend elsewhere years from now.

Dubas is a smart guy, and without question he sees things a few moves down the line. But as this story continues to unfold and people get a little more panicky, the focus on Nylander gets more and more critical. His agent gets a rep for being a particularly difficult negotiator, but really, is he? His other big client, Johnny Gaudreau, went to the wire and nearly missed games to get a new deal with the Flames, but that contract did turn out to be quite team-friendly.

No, I think it’s just as possible the Leafs are the ones anchoring things down in this situation, especially given some of Shanahan’s comments on the core taking discounts to keep things together. Maybe I’m speaking for myself a bit too much, but it seems we’ve gotten spun into thinking Nylander is looking for a boatload of money and the Pastrnak comparable is what’s right. For the team, that might not be the case. For all we know, that Pastrnak number is a bridge much too far. Again, Dubas did just spend years learning from a guy who isn’t exactly known for buckling to player or agent demands, and has historically done anything and everything to get the slightest of edges in working out contracts.

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  • VK63

    Dubas is also setting a precedent for his future in the GM role. Of the three kids (marner, big cactus and Willy) Willy is the most disposable so why not play hardball?

  • DukesRocks

    I was wondering the same thing. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Nylander’s agent, should know he has no power or leverage. Their camp should also know the Leaf’s are loaded on the wing and can throw bodies on the Mathews line until somebody clicks. Yes, it’s true none of these players are at Nylander’s calibar, but the line will produce. It’s just a matter of the frequency they produce at. If Mathews is scoring at a point a game pace, Dubas will have no pressure to meet any demands from Nylander’s camp. Therefore, it would make sense Dubas will be offering Elhers type money over Pastrnak.

  • mst

    In what world is Nylander worth Pasternak money? Not this one!!!! Nylander is not even in the same ballpark as Paternak!

    Nylander has shown his colours. TRADE HIM!!!!! Hamilton? Ellis? All way better alternatives.

    Nylander has been carried by Matthews. Hyman scored only 9 fewer points at 5on5 than Nylander last year playing on Matthews’ wing. Any of: Enis, Kapanen, Johnson or Brown could score 9 more points per year than Hyman playing on Matthews’ wing. Get a good defencemen in a trade for scumbag Nylander and laugh all the way to the cup!

    • Bob Canuck


      I have a few comments.

      First, if Nylander is as overrated/mediocre as you suggest, why would a team trade a top-tier defenceman (e.g., Hamilton or Ellis) for him? If you can see the true value of Nylander, surely other teams can see it? Either your assessment of Nylander is incorrect or the General Managers with top-four defencemen are incompetent.

      Second, if Ennis, Kapanen, Johnsson or Brown are equivalent to Nylander, and therefore have equal trade value, why not trade one of them for Hamilton, Ellis or another top-four defenceman in addition to trading Nylander? The Leafs could use two top-tier defenceman on the right-side. Maybe this latter trade has not occurred because either your evaluation of Nylander vis-à-vis Ennis et al is not valid or Dubas is not smart enough to recognize this trade opportunity.

      Finally, Nylander is a scumbag? Really? He is in a contract dispute, of which we do not know the details other than uncorroborated rumours. For that you think he is a despicable person. I know that you think Marner is much better than Nylander but scumbag is an extremely harsh comment to make because a player is in a contract dispute.

  • leafdreamer

    I wonder where you’re getting this whole Lou is ‘least player-friendly manager’ story – Lou is the one that signed Kovalchuk to one of the most player-friendly if not the most player-friendly deals in the history of the NHL. Also, very few people think Zaitsev deal is not very ‘player-friendly’.

    Anyhow, what nobody seems to have noticed is that Babs has been very mean to Willie all along calling him out in the media scrums, playing him on the wing and bouncing him around lines. Maybe the kid is sick of being disrespected by the coach and the organization (Shanahan now)? Maybe he thinks he’s better than how he’s seen in Toronto?