WIlliam Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo: Brad White/NHLI via Getty Images

Elliotte Friedman, Pierre LeBrun and Bob McKenzie provide updates on the William Nylander negotiations and trade interest as well as updates on Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, and Jake Gardiner’s next contracts in today’s Leafs links.

Leafs Links

Friedman on the Nylander stalemate: “It is the time of tough talk” (Tim & Sid)
Elliotte Friedman joined Tim & Sid to discuss the Hagelin for Pearson trade, proposed changes to the playoff format, and of course, the latest in the William Nylander saga.

We’re just in a holding pattern now. We still have, unfortunately, three weeks until this is over. They’ve got 17 more days. We’ve got to kind of sit and wait until that happens. One of the GMs told me out of the meeting yesterday that there is a lot of posturing going on right now.  There are teams saying, “Well, we like Nylander. We don’t want to pay him what he’s asking,” or, “We like Nylander, but we don’t want to pay Toronto what they’re asking.” Nylander is saying he is not backing down and Toronto is saying they’re not backing down. It is the time of tough talk.

The one thing that is very interesting is that I think there are teams there that the Leafs will target for this. If they do decide they want to make the trade, they’re going to call teams and say, “We know what you’ve got. We know what we want. You’re a match.” I still do believe their first choice is to sign him. I just don’t think they’re going to be able to go to what Nylander’s number is.  I think that’s going to end.

The one thing I am wondering the most about is: Is there any chance here that the Leafs are stubborn, Nylander is stubborn, and any trade partners are stubborn, and we get a situation where he doesn’t sign on December 1st and sits out the year. I just think that that doesn’t benefit anyone at the end, and that will sort itself out, but everyone is talking really tough right now.

McKenzie on Nylander negotiations, Dec. 1 deadline and more (TSN1050)
Bob McKenzie discussed the cap ramifications of signing William Nylander late into the year as well as his sense of the trade market right now for Nylander on First Up with Landsberg and Colaiacovo this morning.

McKenzie on the potential cap savings the Leafs could stand to gain by signing Nylander as late as possible:

We’ve seen it before when David Pastrnak was late signing in Boston and when Hampus Lindholm was late signing with the Anaheim Ducks. It is really pretty simple. Whatever your first year salary is, you figure it out over the number of days left in the season.

The normal NHL regular season is 186 days. In situations where there is a late arrival, the league and the CBA did not want just to have it the same as though you’ve played a full year. You haven’t. You’ve played part of the year. You are obviously getting a pro rated schedule, but for cap purposes, they wanted to have a mechanism in there that reflected this fact.

What it really boils down to is that whatever your salary is for that year, figure it out over the remaining days in the season and that is how you do the cap calculation. It ends up being a higher cap hit in the first year than the AAV, and lower cap hits in the remaining years.

I should point out a couple of things. This is all incumbent on what the salary is. If Nylander chooses to have a contract where the salary is really low in the first year, it negates that benefit — which is a benefit for the Leafs — and negates that theory that says the first year is the higher cap hit and the other years are lower.

You can manipulate this around depending on what you want. If William Nylander said to the Leafs, “I really don’t want to pay a penalty for missing the first two months of the season. Why don’t you give me a big huge signing bonus in my first season and hardly any salary, and that will make me whole? I won’t have missed any time.” The Leafs would not be inclined to do that for the reason that the cap hit wouldn’t be larger in the first year and smaller in the remaining years. It would just offset that advantage.

There is a lot of ways you can manipulate the numbers. Even though this situation this exists, this has not been the strategy of the Toronto Maple Leafs. There are some people who think that Kyle Dubas knew if he waited until the end…. It’s nonsense. The Leafs wanted to get this guy signed long ago. This is not a strategy.

Having said that, now that they are here and within 2-3 weeks of the deadline and there is the potential opportunity here to have a cap hit of $8-9 million in the first year and less — in the $6 million range — in years two through six or two and three, depending on whether it’s a bridge deal or a long-term deal, why not take advantage of that? That plays to the Leafs strengths, which is lots of cap room this year, but not so much this year or in the year after. It could become a factor in all of this when all is said and done, but it was never the stated objective to drag this out just to manipulate the cap numbers.

McKenzie on whether the negotiation is likely to come right down to the wire:

It’s gone this long now… It’s possible that they might find some common ground earlier than right at the 11th hour, but if it’s gone this far, it’s almost like you play the game of chicken right to the end and see where it goes. At this point, if you’re the Leafs, there is no sense in rushing anything. I’m sure it is the same for Nylander.

What it does is allows GM Kyle Dubas to pursue a two-track program here. On one track, you are negotiating and trying to get a deal done with Lewis Gross and Michael Nylander and William Nylander, and on the other track, you are talking to all of the other teams in the NHL and finding out what specifically they would offer you for William Nylander in a trade. You keep going on those two parallel tracks and you work away on it and try to get your best deals in place. You get to the 11th hour and you have that critical moment with Nylander as to, “Are we doing this or not?”

You know exactly what it is going to cost you to sign William Nylander, and you look over at the other track and you know exactly what you are going to get in trade. It is just like Let’s Make A Deal. Door #1 or Door #2?

McKenzie on the interest in Nylander from around the league:

The Carolina Hurricanes obviously do [have interest]. But when you say they have interest, here are the provisions, I would say:

Jaccob Slavin a defenseman there I don’t believe they are willing to part company with. I think they view him as their best defenseman. They don’t want to trade him.

Brett Pesce is someone they’re more inclined to trade, but I think the Leafs would look at Brett Pesce and say, “Pesce is good and he has a really nice contract, but we’re going to need more than that.” And Carolina is probably going to say, “Well, the contract is going to be a lot, and why would we give you more than that?” And now you’re into a negotiation.

The other part is — and this is the part that I think is critical and probably doesn’t get enough attention — if there are a bunch of teams out there that are saying, “Yeah, it’d be great to trade for William Nylander, but guess what? We don’t want to pay him anything more than the Toronto Maple Leafs want to pay.”

Now, there are some teams that absolutely would pay him more. A team like the Rangers might be inclined. They’ve got the space. A team like the Rangers would say, “You know what? A young, fast, skilled young guy. We’d love to have him. If we have to give him 7 or 7.5, who cares? No problem.” And then the Leafs say, “We just looked at your roster and reserve list and we don’t see anything we like for a trade.” That’s where it gets to be problematic.

The Minnesota Wild, for the last number of weeks, have had conversations with the Leafs and they’ve been interested in William Nylander. Now, last night’s loss aside, Minnesota has been playing some great hockey this season. Where earlier in the season they might look and say, “We can trade Matt Dumba or Jared Spurgeon or this defenseman or that defenseman,” they might now be not so inclined to do it.

They’re also a team that has got pretty significant cap issues. They’re not going to sit there an say, “We’re going to give Nylander $7-8 million and take a cap hit this year of $8-9 million.” They can’t do that or they won’t do that. That’s where it gets complicated.

But there are all sorts of teams, I’m sure. Kyle Dubas’ phone will be ringing off the hook just with people inquiring and saying, “Do you think we have what you are interested in on our roster? If so, let us know.” If there is any traction, it’ll pick up, but if there is not, it will fall by the wayside.

A lot of teams are going to fall by the wayside because they don’t have what the Leafs are looking for or they are not prepared more than what the Leafs are willing to pay Nylander on a long-term or short-term deal.

LeBrun discusses potential landing spots for Nylander (TSN1050)
Pierre LeBrun provides the latest speculation on the Nylander trade front before giving his prediction for where Nylander will play hockey this season (he picks Toronto).

There is no question LA has talked about Nylander internally. They feel they owe it to themselves to reach out to Kyle Dubas, if they haven’t already. I don’t know if they have the pieces that would interest Toronto.

You have to put Carolina in there because they have been the most aggressive suitor since the beginning. I don’t know that there is a team that has checked in more often than Carolina and Don Waddell have with the Leafs just to keep asking, “Hey, if you do something, let us know.”

They’re probably deeper on defense than any of the other teams that would have interest in Nylander, which could be interesting to the Leafs. I think that would be the number-one team now.

Where I continue to struggle to envision a trade is, if the Leafs are struggling to sign Nylander, why would Carolina necessarily be able to do that? That’s where I stumble a bit in that scenario.

I think LA is interesting because what is William Nylander? Young, fast and offensively gifted. What does LA need? But if you’re the Leafs, what kind of pieces would you look at on LA? Pearson is gone, so you can scratch that one off. I don’t know if the fit is there with LA.

In terms of teams that are for sure having a look at him — I know the Florida Panthers are probably going to reach out. From my understanding, they have talked about William Nylander internally. They are apparently not willing to trade Mike Matheson, so where does that leave the fit now?

If they trade him, there has got to be a top-four D in that trade. There are other ways to get business done if you’re the Leafs. Another GM said to me yesterday, “What about a three-way deal?” I’ll just give you an example.

Let’s take Detroit. There is no question that the Red Wings have said internally, “We love William Nylander, but we don’t have the pieces Toronto needs directly.” They are not going to trade their first-round pick because that could be Jack Hughes. They don’t have a top-four defenseman that really sticks out that would fit for the Leafs. Detroit isn’t a direct match, but could they get another team involved?”

I’m just throwing that out there and I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but sometimes you get so fixated on what the Leafs need and you forget there are other creative ways to get things done.

LeBrun on where he thinks Nylander will end up playing this season:

I think it’s for the Leafs. I just think, at the end of the day, there is one more moment where these two sides have to push the number to where they can live with it. I don’t know if that moment has happened yet.

LeBrun on the status of contract negotiations with Mitch Marner:

They met last Friday. I don’t think there is much to read into that other than that the dialogue continues. The Leafs are going to not want the Marner thing to wait until the last moment. I think it’s pretty clear that Darren Ferris and the Marner camp’s plan is to wait until after the season. That is kind of the cat and mouse game there. The only way that changes is if the Leafs make the kind of whopper of an offer the Leafs would have to consider in-season.

But it’s important for the Leafs to continue to have that dialogue. They’ve had some terrific dialogue with the Auston Matthews camp. I just don’t think that is going ot be an issue in my mind. I don’t know when that deal will get done, but I just don’t think there is much angst with that deal.

LeBrun on the status of any potential Jake Gardiner contract negotiations:

Pat Brisson did meet with the Leafs about four weeks ago when he was in Toronto. I just think, for Gardiner — unfortunately for him and I think he knows this — he’s kind of got to wait by the wayside and see how things play out first.

It is pretty clear what decision he’s going to have to make at the end of the day. There is a number that works in Toronto and he could make a lot more on July 1st by hitting the market. It’s pretty clear.

Leafs crush Kings in battle of clubs headed in opposite directions (Sportsnet)
“They’ve got great speed, like outstanding speed,” said Willie Desjardins. “They’ve done a good job building that team. They can come at you with a lot of different weapons. We’ve got a lot of respect for ‘em.”

Game #18 Review: Toronto Maple Leafs 5 vs. Los Angeles Kings 1 (MLHS)
Nik points out that the Leafs have outshot the opposition 51-21 in first periods of the past three games.  For a team that is yet to lose a game after scoring first, it is a promising development that they’re now starting on time.

Leafs Musings: A Big Weekend for Sandin and Liljegren, Standout Forwards on the Marlies, and Thoughts on the William Nylander Rumours (MLHS)
Kevin Papetti with his second piece for MLHS where he scouts Timothy Liljegren, Rasmus Sandin; The readiness of Trevor Moore and Mason Marchment or call up, some thoughts on the William Nylander trade rumours. A good read.

Maple Leafs’ Moore returns home to tragedy (Toronto Sun)
“It’s weird looking on Snapchat and seeing people you knew from back home and their houses are gone. No one in my immediate circle (lost theirs), but definitely there are people I know.”