Nylander contract ridiculousness, not rushing to spend LTIR money, and a Keefe reality check: Leaflets

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
7 months ago
The Maple Leafs are back, baby. Not only are they back to playing after being off for five days, not only are they back from Europe, but they are also back to losing to lottery teams in games they should have had put away. I guess you can either be mad about an inevitable loss or appreciate that the Leafs have done a lot to turn around their season of late or both. Feel your feelings.
Anyways, there are some big topics to have opinions on and we’ll deal with mine below:

Pumping the brakes on the Nylander contract talk

Remember when it was ridiculous that William Nylander was asking for $10M a season this summer? How many people are now going back and deleting their tweets or x’s or whatever the hell they are called now because Nylander came out the gate this season showing he was that $10M player?
What we saw next was the bar moving in a ridiculous new direction and that is comparing William Nylander to David Pastrnak.
Now I like Nylander, a lot. And I think, while the Pastrnak comparison isn’t completely out to lunch the fact that Pastrnak has been at a higher level and consistently outperforming William Nylander so far means we can cool our jets on the $11.25M talk. In an ideal world we’d also be able to cool our jets on that talk next summer when Mitch Marner starts asking for that money but that’s a rant for another time.
The truth still probably lies somewhere on the Brad Treliving spectrum. Nylander is either going to be the $9.75M Gaudreau comparison that Lewis Gross negotiated to get his client out of Calgary or he could max out at the $10.5M Huberdeau comparison that Brad Treliving agreed to in order to not see his return for Matthew Tkachuk walk out the door after one season.
The Globe Series hype will soon be behind us and Nylander’s point streak has come to an end. As great as Nylander is that greatest is going to begin to be measured in a more reasonable fashion and now with Nylander potentially prospering from Toronto related endorsements, the benefit of being a star in Toronto can likely be factored into a perk that results in a cap friendlier deal for the Maple Leafs.

Give Klingberg his minimum LTIR time before spending the cap relief

I’m going to acknowledge that this website is about to become rotten with trade speculation now that it is easy to point to Klingberg’s LTIR relief as a means of making most trades work financially for the Leafs. It’s a fair thing to do and the odds are Klingberg is done for the season and odds are the Maple Leafs will use that cap relief before the trade deadline.
The thing is the Maple Leafs still haven’t played their 20th game of the season yet. It’s early. The Leafs are doing well enough to avoid a sense of urgency around making a move but unperforming enough that it is still clear that changes are warranted. All signs point to the blueline but at the same time the return of Conor Timmins is just one game in and at some point Timothy Liljegren might come walking through the Leafs locker room door without a boot on his foot. Yeah, even if Liljegren and Timmins are at their best it may not change the Leafs priority away from defence, but there is still plenty to consider as well.
Let’s head back to that whole it’s not even 20 games into the season thing. The NHL season is incredibly long and with it the chance for injuries to shift priorities for the Maple Leafs. Whether it is a centre or heaven forbid a goaltender that suffers an injury, the potential is there for the Leafs to be left with a different pressing need that takes priority.
There also needs to be some consideration of how needs can be addressed. Right now, the replacement options are heavily focused on Calgary’s blueline. The closer the trade deadline comes, a wider variety of options will present themselves, both at higher skill point and at lower price point (but sadly it is unlikely to be a combination of both.) A fuller last minute market shifts things a bit more towards favouring the buyer and if Toronto can stay comfortably in a playoff spot until then, there’s no rush.
In contrast, it’s not easy to parachute into a new situation and be the perfect fit defenceman. Time to adapt is great and there is something to be said for getting ahead of it. John Klingberg is eligible to return from LTIR for the Leafs game against the Rangers on December 19th. The NHL Holiday Freeze immediately follows that. If no news has come out about Klingberg’s injury it seems like the Leafs roster decisions will be pushed to trade deadline or close to it by default anyway.

Sheldon Keefe isn’t going away

Sheldon Keefe at this point is polarizing at best. There seems to be a balance between those happy with what he’s achieved in the regular season and those fed up with how things have gone in the postseason. Admittedly personal views fall into the latter category, but I have to concede that if Brad Treliving didn’t let Sheldon Keefe go at the easiest possible moment back in June, Sheldon Keefe is certainly not going anywhere while Toronto is sitting on a 10-5-3 record, one that could certainly be better, but one that has been trending upward despite the loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Keefe detractors will point to the loss against the Blackhawks as a reminder that Keefe’s inability to get his team energized for games like this and that any team that roles out an overly cautious strategy against the Maple Leafs top six forwards seems to have success are part of the problem but as long as the numbers look good, it seems unlikely that Brad Treliving is looking to add Sheldon Keefe to his list of regrettable summer signings that need to be undone.
For those wanting a coaching change I guess you can take comfort in what is happening with the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have proven that the bump teams get from a new coach is more narrative than fact and unless you are getting someone that is an exciting option it might be best to stick with the status quo. I wouldn’t say the NHL is littered with exciting coaches and think that the Leafs are limited to “grass is greener” options rather than upgrades.
I guess take that as my endorsement of Sheldon Keefe for the time being.
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