clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

About all that William Nylander buzz

New, comments

Forget Mike Babcock’s comments; why was the GM of the Marlies at a Leafs game?

2018 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Yesterday was William Nylander rumour day. Former player, current TSN radio guy, and stick tape obsessive Marc Savard got things rolling with what looks like a joke tweet that many people took seriously.

He does seem to know the Nylanders, though; even though he didn’t quite play on the same team at the same time as Michael Nylander.

Then a nice young man in Columbus claimed that Kyle Dubas had told him there’d be an update by 5 p.m. The nice young man got a lot of attention out of it, but there was no update. Of course, he never said which 5 p.m. he or Dubas meant. And one way or another, this will be sorted out by 5 p.m. next Saturday.

If the other nice man in the airport in Switzerland hadn’t turned out to be telling the absolute truth when he reported he heard Nylander’s name announced there, we’d have brushed off the Columbus fan more quickly.

Bob McKenzie came along at noon yesterday and did a tweetstorm to tell us all that while he wasn’t saying it was impossible that a breakthrough would occur, nothing was really imminent as far as he knew at that time.

He recorded the Bobcast right after noon Friday, and he discusses the Nylander buzz at the beginning. He reiterated that he did not believe a deal was in place. A few days ago, McKenzie talked about the idea of a bridge deal on a game broadcast as a plausible way to solve this, but he is absolutely not debunking the Savard tweet, because if the Leafs and Nylander were to agree to a term deal, Savard’s humorous AAV will be very close to true.

At the very end of the Bobcast, McKenzie talks about the chances that this deal gets done soon, and what format it will take.

Chris Johnston of Sportsnet did an article yesterday on this issue, and finally, we get an interesting bit of information. The article is full of Mike Babcock’s comments that leave things very clear where he stands on the Nylander issue: He wants him in the lineup, and now would be a good time for that. But that’s just Babcock shockingly wanting all his players on the team at once. It’s not meaningful unless you want to assume this is the first step in the PR rehabilitation of Nylander’s image with the fans.

What is interesting is this:

With three key members of the Leafs front office accompanying the team on the road this week — general manager Kyle Dubas and assistants Brandon Pridham and Laurence Gilman — there is believed to have been some progress made in talks.

The biggest hurdle at the end of a negotiation like this one might not even be the length and cap hit on the contract, but how it is structured with bonuses and year-by-year salary.

Laurence Gilman is the GM of the Marlies, and the Marlies were down the highway in Cleveland last night beating the Columbus Blue Jackets’ AHL team in overtime. So what was the GM of the Marlies doing in Columbus watching the Leafs lose?

Gilman is also an AGM to Dubas of course. And when he was first hired, I wrote this about him:

On [Chris Custance’s podcast] Full 60, Gilman tells the story of how he wrote a paper about mediation, arbitration and dispute resolution in relationship to hockey while in law school. And it was his professor who suggested he submit that paper to hockey teams because that was obviously the thing he loved, not the law. He got rejected a lot, but eventually he got hired by the Winnipeg Jets (the real ones) because they were looking for someone to negotiate contracts differently.

Over and over again, you can hear from Gilman that this aspect of the business fascinates him. And what he was innovative in bringing to an NHL team when he joined the Jets is now commonplace on all teams.

Later on it that article, I get into Gilman’s ideas about the salary cap and how teams should manage it:

He says, “In a perfect payroll, you want a player’s level of contribution to match or exceed his place on the depth chart or his productivity. And the problem you have when you are signing star players is that as they approach 30, their productivity will decline, and you get situations .... where a player is making by far the most money he’s ever made as his productivity is declining rapidly.”

His solution? To place a heavy emphasis on procurement and development of players on ELCs.

I think the existence of ELCs makes those big and long term UFA deals inevitable, but Gilman is all about managing the artificial system of the NHL CBA and salary cap as it is, not wringing his hands over how he wishes it was.

Which brings us very neatly to the Leafs, the so-far unexciting production from the highly-paid Patrick Marleau and their inability to come to a deal with William Nylander. The Leafs aren’t the only team facing this issue, and this won’t be the last time they have to deal with something of this sort.

What was the GM of the Marlies doing in Columbus? Did he take a wrong turn on the highway to Cleveland or was he there because this Nylander deal is finally in the late stages of arguing over the details as Johnston says.

We can only hope this is going to end very soon.

As to the issues around signing bonuses: I’ve said — way too many times — that waiting on purpose to sign Nylander late to save a few hundred thousand on his cap hit next year is not a clever plan, it’s a dumb idea. However, now that everyone is here in late November with no deal done, then giving him a signing bonus in year one, which will wipe that savings would be very dumb.

Nylander, on the other hand, will want some cash in hand now to buy all those expensive steak dinners his teammates will demand. In addition, Nylander is going to want heavy lockout protection in the future years, and yet so will Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner (and Jake Gardiner). The Leafs only have so much cash flow to accommodate all of those desires, and one hopes they’ll have some future big contracts to sign too.

So it’s entirely possible this deal is in the late stages, and the devil is now in the details.

We’ll find out by 5 p.m.