Chris Johnston discusses the latest he’s hearing about the Mitch Marner negotiations and William Nylander’s confidence entering the year, John Tavares discusses his experience negotiating his second contract, and more in the Leafs links.
Johnston on Mitch Marner’s Contract, Nylander’s Confidence (Sportsnet 590)
Chris Johnston joined Prime Time Sports to discuss the latest with the Mitch Marner contractual holdout and William Nylander’s swagger entering the new season.
On Mitch Marner taking note of William Nylander’s situation from last year re: holding out:
Anyone who followed the Toronto Maple Leafs last year, and obviously Mitch Marner had a great seat from inside the dressing room, understands how difficult it was on William Nylander to miss the time he did while sorted out his own contract situation with the team and the impact it had on his season. He later went on to say he regretted the way everything played out and more or less said at the end of the season last year that he wishes it hadn’t happened that way — that he felt it was a lost year for him missing time.
Based on what I’ve heard him from William today, he said he tried to stay away from Mitch Marner and he wasn’t sending him all of this advice or anything, but he said Mitch Marner actually sought some advice from him a month or so ago. That is when he kind of just advised him that you’ve got to let the process play out and not stress out or anything like that. You’re going to play somewhere this season one way or another. You don’t know how this is going to end when you’re in the player’s shoes because they’re obviously involved with their agents but they’re not in every discussion. I don’t believe these guys are getting daily updates on every phone call that occurs. It is uncertainty.
You have to remember they’re young men. They haven’t, in most cases, gone through anything like this. The first deals that players sign in the NHL are pretty straight forward because they’re heavily regulated and the bonus structure is all kind of paint-by-numbers. It gets a little different when you sign the kind of deal that Mitch Marner is ultimately going to sign.
I thought it was interesting that he phoned Nylander to ask about that. Nylander has not been shy in terms of talking about his own situation in terms of the toll everything took on him and the role it played in what was a disappointing season for him personally.
On where things stand in contract negotiations:
As late as this in the game in a sense because it’s mid-August and there hasn’t really been any signs it is about to be resolved. It is premature to say how it is going to play out. Clearly, because of what I mentioned earlier with Nylander and with what the stakes are this season for the Leafs, I don’t think the Leafs have any desire to engage in a battle that goes right to that December 1st deadline like it did with Nylander. I have to believe, as we get closer to the start of training camp or maybe the first set of exhibition games or even somewhere close to the start of the regular season, there will be a concerted effort on both sides to see if they can bridge the gap that exists between them.
Based on what I’ve heard recently, I don’t know that the gap is all that huge. I think there is still a fair bit of debate about what the term of this deal will be between the Leafs and Marner’s camp and obviously, the Marner is a key aspect of it. I think the Leafs have stepped up their offers or their willingness to sign him to a contract that isn’t all that far off what the player and his agent are looking for. Clearly, that deal isn’t done yet and they haven’t reached a point where they will happily sign this and put it behind them, but I don’t know that we really can handicap what is going to happen. Training camp doesn’t really get going until September 11-12. Once we really get into that month, there will be a little more urgency with the number of RFAs league wide. I have to believe that everyone involved in this, while they may have some differences in where they see this going, they understand a potentially heavy cost to pay by having it drag on too long.
On Nylander having a renewed confidence in his recent interview on Sportsnet:
When I last saw him, I didn’t see any of that. Back on April 25th, it was the most disappointed, beaten-down William Nylander — very, very candid, unusually so with his comments about how the season played out and his disappointment in his play and everything that happened with his contract and how it essentially sabotaged his year. That’s the beauty of sport — it’s a clean slate at this point. He has had a couple of months to recharge the batteries and a much more normal summer this year without the uncertainty…. I think he understands that he has something to prove and he has got to live up to the contract he signed — the one he was willing to really battle right to the final minutes and risk potentially not even being able to play in the NHL at all last year to get the deal he got.
He knows that, when you look at all the departures this season form the Leafs, it has been a pretty busy offseason. I think it had to be done to make everything work cap wise. It had to be done to protect for Mitch Marner. They made some trades to reallocate cap. They brought in Tyson Barrie on the blue line and we suspect let Jake Gardiner walk away in free agency. The team has been changed a lot. When you look at the net result of that, it is much more Auston Matthews’ team, William Nylander’s team, Mitch Marner’s team — the young guys aren’t so young anymore. I think they understand, either through implicit conversations with coaches and management, that when you start earning the contracts they’re earning, they’re going to be relied upon in a way they weren’t in the past. You add that all together and this is a huge season for William Nylander. I got the impression, at least from a mindset standpoint, he is entering it not shying away from the fact that it carries some serious consequences and pressure on his shoulders.
William Nylander explains why he changed his number from 29 to 88 (Sportsnet)
In a sitdown with Sportsnet, Nylander explains the reasoning behind his number change.
I’ve always wanted to wear #88 from the beginning, but I thought that this year I came into the World Championships and my number was #29. The equipment manager said #29 was taken by Mario Kempe and he had more games with the national team. I said, “I’ll take #88,” knowing I had played with that number when I first turned pro in Sweden. That was the connection there. This summer, I thought now is a good time to change the number, so I did.
On why he picked up the tab for fans that need their jersey numbers redone:
I thought it was just a great thing to do for the fans just knowing how much they care and that they bought my jersey shows the extra amount of support they have for me. It is a small thing I can do to give back to those fans.
Tavares dishes on Leafs’ captaincy, young core, and Marner situation (TSN)
In a sitdown on TSN, John Tavares discusses expectations for the upcoming season
On what the team learned from the loss to Boston in the playoffs:
I think just how hard it is and just really how close you really are as well. It kind of goes both ways. Just really how hard it is to put a team away even in the first round. To try to do that four times and beat four different teams in a seven-game series — just how difficult that journey is. It really can come down to just a handful of plays. I thought we were really in control for most of the series and we had two really good opportunities to move on and we didn’t capitalize. I think mostly you can’t let these opportunities to slip. You’ve got to make the most of them.
On the loss of Kadri, Marleau Ron Hainsey and how it changes the leadership structure of the team:
Certainly, with the talent and youth we have and the impact that our young core makes, I think there is no question there will be big steps from them not just on the ice and the impact they make, but certainly in all areas of our team and in the locker room bringing this group together and continuing to learn from one another and grow together.
Management — Shanny, Dubas, Babs — all have a really good feel for our group and obviously are there on a daily basis. I think they will really have a good idea when the time is right. We have plenty of guys who can fill that role and do a great job at it. I think that is a real special thing to have: When you have so many quality people and quality players that can really fill that role and really embrace that opportunity. Obviously, there is special significance to it. When the time is right, I know they’ll address it and do that if it’s necessary.
On Dermott and Hyman being out to start the season as well as a possible holdout situation with Marner:
Two key players with us have significant injuries, so there are going to be two early opportunities for guys with more ice time to make the team. With the way our team is built and certainly with the core of the group, there will always be good opportunities for players in the system and players that we signed in certain roles to establish themselves and come in and take advantage of those opportunities. For those guys that are a part of the core group, you want to go out there and push each other and continue to be in the role you’re in. There is always competition and a great competitiveness going into training camp as the team kind of comes together. There is some opportunity that may not normally be there with the circumstances that are there with our team right now, so it should be an exciting opportunity to be a part of this group in September.
On whether he is contacting Marner regularly:
I think Mitch knows I am there for him whenever he needs it, but I certainly think I will respect his situation and his process and the way they are going about it. There are lots of RFAs unsigned still and a lot of guys in a similar position as him, so there is still some time here. I think we all believe the right thing will happen and something will get worked out. That’s what both sides obviously want. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer than others. Mitch is obviously an important player for our team. Just with the type of guy he is as well, we really count on him. We want to get him there for day one of camp and get moving forward and continuing to build this thing toward the ultimate goal.
On what Tavares’ experience was like signing his second contract:
When I came off my entry-level, there were discussions and I was really happy in my situation. I really enjoyed being on the Island and the growth in my game with where I was at. We were talking for a little bit and then things started to slow down. I think I just felt that that was where I wanted to be and was very fortunate to get the contract offer they presented to me. I just wanted to try to build something there and continue my growth into my second season. Just having that stability, I felt I could just focus on playing and continue to establish myself and become a better player.
Everyone’s situations and circumstances are different. There is a lot that has changed with where the game is at now from when I signed until now. I think both sides want the same thing and I really truly believe they will get there sooner rather than later.