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Auston Matthews and William Nylander should both take less money to re-sign with the Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
9 months ago
Winning a Stanley Cup takes sacrifice and commitment. It takes people buying into the culture. It takes an entire organization, top-down, who all know their role, play it well, and execute when the timing is most important.
The Toronto Maple Leafs need sacrifice. They need commitment. And they need Auston Matthews and William Nylander to take less money on their contract extensions so general manager Brad Treliving can properly equip the Leafs’ roster to win the Stanley Cup.
In the past, there was the Niklas Lidstrom rule in Detroit where no other Red Wing could make more than the smooth-skating defenseman. The results speak for themselves. Then Sidney Crosby took noticeably less in Pittsburgh and the Penguins ended up winning Cups. Nathan MacKinnon took less on a seven-year deal in Colorado and yes, the Avalanche won the Cup.
Of course, the salary cap changes, so let’s ensure we are comparing apples to apples.  But regardless, the basis is players have to buy into the team, and Crosby and MacKinnon gave their clubs a discounted rate on a long-term deal and Nylander and Matthews should be doing the same for the Maple Leafs.

The Market in Toronto Allows for Plenty of Off-Ice Earnings

While the Maple Leafs can only offer so much per season as far as salary goes,  that doesn’t mean the players can’t make more money elsewhere. Toronto is the mecca for sponsorships and nobody in the league has more than Mitch Marner. Ryan O’Reilly was barely on the team for a month and quickly started popping up in Osmow’s commercials.
If asking for the moon is going to tie Treliving’s hands, there should be some wiggle room here. Yes, the Leafs would need to go about it in the proper means to ensure the NHL doesn’t discipline the team. But having the players truly buy in could do absolute wonders.
It doesn’t need to be $2-3 million per season the two Maple Leafs forwards leave on the table, it just needs to be enough where everyone sees the number and thinks ‘wow, Nylander and Matthews have committed to winning in Toronto’.  If they thought the ovation during last season’s in-game introductions was loud before, show Leafs Nation you care so much about the team you’re willing to leave money on the table, and let me tell you, the ovation next season on opening night would be legendary.
Nylander and Matthews are marketable people. They have the looks, the personalities and the desire to be in front of the camera during fashion week. From take-out spots, to giant retail companies, or sportswear to designer clothes, the two of them could do wonders for any brand.

Trade Winds are Picking Up Around Nylander

If Matthews signs first and takes less money on his average annual value, it could force Nylander into a corner and ensure he also does the same. Treliving could use Matthews’ decision as a bargaining tool.
Nylander, of the two Leafs stars, is less likely to take a discount because he’s had to watch some of his teammates make much more money than him the past five seasons and is likely feeling like this is finally his chance to cash in.
If the salary cap is going up so much either next summer or the one after, what about the option of having both players sign two-year extensions so both sides get an idea of the cap moving forward and can slide them in the depth chart accordingly. There seems to be a lot of options on the table but that also means the trade route is being explored.
While Treliving has prioritized keeping both players in the organization this summer, if Nylander isn’t willing to budge on his demands, the Maple Leafs GM may have no choice but to move on and retool on the fly. I recently published an article on seven players the team could target should a Nylander deal transpire. Needless to say it’d be a blockbuster, and would send shockwaves across the entire league and into the Leafs’ dressing room.
All of that trade nonsense can be avoided and it starts by ensuring both players see the big picture. Treliving needs to get both Matthews and Nylander to understand the commitment and sacrifice it takes from the entire organization to win. And also, the Leafs GM needs to get the two stars to understand and acknowledge this by taking less on their new deals. Money doesn’t grow on trees but in Toronto, when you’re this marketable, it kind of does.

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