I don’t have any NHL or sports media connections, but one thing that I know for sure is that professional athletes, for the most part, read all the things written about them. Tweets, articles, Instagram comments, they see all that stuff. They also watch things like Insider Trading on TSN, Sportsnet, whatever. Players like to be aware of what’s going on in the league and the perception of it just like we do.
This isn’t a new take. It’s pretty common knowledge.
Because of that, I have zero doubt William Nylander realizes he’s been cast as an odd-man out from this Leafs core for essentially the last two years, especially when sites need clicks or channels need viewers. Every time TSN needs a Toronto trade talking point, it’s a simple formula they use: Nylander for an upgrade on the blue-line. It’s been like it since the team started turning the corner after the Matthews draft.
Mitch Marner? He doesn’t show up in the hypotheticals. It’s never him, even though the two players have indiscernible value to the team. It’s Nylander’s name in those rumour mills, every single time. And one thing that’s bubbling to the surface as this negotiation drags on into nervous territory is that he knows it.
The angle I’ve heard a number of times in the last week about why Nylander doesn’t want to take a hometown discount in Toronto is because he doesn’t want to be the guy that takes the personal sacrifice only to be shipped out a year from now and miss all the fun. And if that’s what he truly believes, then I think he’s one-hundred percent in the right. Why would he take a lowball offer now, then see himself sent to the Hurricanes next summer when the Leafs decide paying 36-million for four forwards is too much?
But we don’t know that’s going to happen, and neither does Nylander really. The only people who seem to think it’s a certainty are those who beat that drum constantly on shows such as Leafs Lunch, HockeyCentral, and so on. And I think that type of talk has a larger effect on players than we think.
We tend to overlook the human element of this game a lot, and that translates into us just saying “Well he scored this much, here’s what his salary should be”. But it isn’t that simple, and this negotiation, which is now spilling into nearly 10% of a season missed for Nylander, is becoming a bit weird. I can’t help wondering if a crucial part of it is the process of Dubas convincing him that the noise he’s been hearing for the last 24 months is just that, and it’s time to tune it out.