31 Takes: Nylander saga was old GMs' fault

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There was always going to be finger-pointing and name-calling over the outcome of the William Nylander saga. That’s true regardless of whether the eventual outcome was a signing, a trade, or an impasse that prevented the talented winger from playing in the league at all this year.

In the end, Nylander signed for what everyone has been saying for weeks: Six years at a hair under $7-million AAV. It got down to five minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline, but it got done, and that’s what’s important now.

One name who has very definitively not come up in much of that blame-slinging — for reasons that seem fairly obvious at this point — is Lou Lamoriello, the former GM of the team who got kinda-sorta pushed out the door this summer. Certainly also, to a lesser extent, Dave Nonis is not being brought up as a progenitor of all these issues.

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The issue isn’t so much that Lamoriello didn’t successfully re-sign Nylander a year ago or whatever. You can’t force a player to sign if he doesn’t want to, and Nylander was almost certainly waiting on the results of what ended up being a really good age-21 season. So this was always going to come down to summer 2018.

But over that summer, the Leafs made maybe the single biggest free agent addition since the Bruins signed Zdeno Chara, bringing John Tavares back home. One of the things Tavares said made him sign with the Leafs in the end was — apart from the $11-million AAV and the Boyhood Team factor — that Kyle Dubas just laid the cards on the table. “This is everything we plan to do for the next however-many years.” Almost certainly, those plans involved signing Nylander before this season began and keeping the money down.

That this wasn’t possible, in the end, is also not Dubas or Nylander’s fault. Nylander like I said last week, is well within his rights to demand a salary that’s reasonable for a player of his quality. And Dubas can’t force Nylander to take a $4-million AAV for the next eight years, nice though that would be.

The issue is that the Leafs are facing a future cap crunch because they have to think about re-signing Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Jake Gardiner this summer, among other players. It forces you to make tough decisions, because all things being equal Dubas would have obviously preferred to have Nylander signed even before July 1. But this is, again, two areas where Lamoriello and Nonis are pretty much the only guys to blame for the whole situation.

Fact 1: Neither Dubas nor Nylander gave Nikita Zaitsev and Patrick Marleau a combined cap hit of $10.75 million. Both are clearly NHLers and Marleau in particular has a perfectly respectable 15 points so far this year. But both are also extremely overpaid and Zaitsev is signed through…. 2024? The point I made in the above-linked article that veterans get money they don’t necessarily deserve, at the expense of younger guys who probably do, applies directly here.

Fact 2: Nonis, opted to sign Nylander in August 2014, the same summer he was drafted. However, he also chose to “slide” that contract so it began when Nylander was coming out of his draft-year-plus-1. Not that he could have foreseen drafting Marner or Matthews, but that saddled Lamoriello and, eventually, Dubas with the responsibility to get him signed one summer before Matthews/Marner, rather than two, which would have probably both helped the long-term planning and keep the costs down (because he would have likely only had one 60-point season).

Sure, the Tavares signing isn’t helping now, but this is an $11-million player playing $11-million hockey; he’s on pace to be the first Leafs center to hit 95 points in a quarter-century. Will he be that good for the length of his contract? Probably not. But if Toronto were more likely win a Cup or three out of this core (with or without Nylander) then it was a worthwhile gamble.

If the Leafs had more long-term cap flexibility, we wouldn’t be here right now. But Nonis and Lamoriello laid the groundwork for this drama years ago. It’s one last kick in the ass from years of mismanagement, now being delivered from as much four years in the past.

The Toronto Maple Leafs narrowly avoiding disaster with William Nylander. (Maddie Meyer/AFP Photo)
The Toronto Maple Leafs narrowly avoiding disaster with William Nylander. (Maddie Meyer/AFP Photo)

31 Takes

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks are on a bit of a run again and boy it’s gonna 100 percent shock you to learn that’s because John Gibson is playing out of his mind again.

Arizona Coyotes: Speaking of which, looks like the Coyotes are figuring it out here because Clayton Keller (3-2-5 in his last four games) is heating up.

Boston Bruins: Seems like injuries are catching up with these fellas. Not really surprised, but y’know.

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres have lost their last two games and things won’t get easier in December. Three back-to-backs, a couple three-in-fours, and one stretch from the 11th to the 22nd with six games in 12 days.

Calgary Flames: Wow, a two-game dads’ trip. Fun.

Carolina Hurricanes: They moved their best player to the wing. Why not?

Chicago: I’m not sure giving Artemi Panarin $10 million or whatever is gonna do anything to make this team any good, but okay, sure, have fun out there.

Colorado Avalanche: Is literally anyone in hockey doubting the Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen line at this point? Like, name one person who thinks they aren’t legit.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets are running 8-for-28 on the power play in the last 12 games. That’d good.

Dallas Stars: John Klingberg and Connor Carrick should both be back before the end of the month. That’s good for a Dallas blue line decimated by injuries. But of course, you gotta get there first.

Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings are only two points out of the playoffs. Alright, sure.

Edmonton Oilers: They’re 4-1-1 under Hitchcock. People absolutely do not respect that man enough.

Florida Panthers: Well………… at least they got the point?

Los Angeles Kings: It’s nice to hope, I guess.

Minnesota Wild: Sometimes you run into the Leafs.

Montreal Canadiens: Nice to have Shea Weber back. Not that it probably helps much in the long run, but still nice.

Nashville Predators: Ryan Hartman must feel like the guy who got on the wrong train and missed his trip on the Titanic.

New Jersey Devils: The Devils haven’t won since Nov. 21. That’s a long time.

New York Islanders: So to be clear, it’s…. good that they went back to their decrepit old building everyone hated? Am I getting that right?

New York Rangers: Bear with me here: What if the Rangers are just bad?

Ottawa Senators: Well, this headline absolutely cannot be about Ben Harpur. The guy who has one goal this season and a 43.3 percent CF% is “establishing himself at both ends.”

Philadelphia Flyers: *checks the standings* Okay, cool, dude.

Pittsburgh Penguins: This Derrick Brassard thing has not gone as anyone hoped.

San Jose Sharks: This is the kind of put-up-or-shut-up loss these guys might have needed. Brutal.

St. Louis Blues: This is, like, a cartoonishly bad season.

Tampa Bay Lightning: These guys erased a three-goal deficit like it was nothing. Amazing.

Toronto Maple Leafs: One thing the team with the second-best offense in the league needed to add?A top-30 winger.

Vancouver Canucks: This honestly is the most Canucks-y description of a Canucks game I’ve ever seen.

Vegas Golden Knights: Nothing says you have to shave your mustache at the end of Movember, fellas.

Washington Capitals: Man, come on with this guy.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have one regulation loss to the Devils in the last 15 games. One.

Gold Star Award

Larry Brooks didn’t have to do Jeremy Roenick like this, but it’s insanely good that he did.

Minus of the Weekend

Brian Burke, who once gave Mike Komisarek what you would today call “Dylan Larkin money” lecturing Kyle Dubas on national TV about spending too much on a 22-year-old, 60-point winger is extremely rich. His Don Cherry Lite act is wearing thin like two months into the season. Hockey Night in Canada doesn’t have to do this to its viewers.

Play of the Weekend

This McDavid kid can make any coach or teammate look good.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “Kryptekahmust not have heard about the Duchene trade.

To Tampa:
Mark Stone possibly retained
Draft pick (Because Dorian LOVES to throw unnecessary picks into trades) 

To Ottawa:
One of Coburn/Girardi/Callahan (Cap Reasons)
One of Cirelli/Raddysh/Joseph (Young Player)
And THIS year’s first. With a conditional first if Stone resigns but he probably won’t with TB’s Salary Cap next year.

Signoff

Mira que cosa tan terrible no puedo entender algo como esto como puedo vivir con alguien tan irresponsible.

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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