It has been a week since William Nylander signed his new 6-year, $45 million-dollar contract with the Maple Leafs. What a week it has been, we saw everything from jubilation that William was coming back to a small yet vocal group calling for him to be booed when he hit the ice again.
In this corner of Leafs Nation, I always defended the player and the process that took place in these negotiations as there will always be a business side to hockey. In every business negotiation the process can get tense with both sides digging in their heels to get the best deal possible.
That is exactly what transpired here with Nylander, and what will most certainly happen with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Nylander was labeled as selfish, had no love for the game nor team. There is a lot to unwrap in those sentiments, to start Nylander can have a real love for the sport, team and fans but one can’t ignore the business.
As the league trends towards younger and younger players dominating the league and earning more of the cap dollars, players like Nylander who’s current contract takes him to the age of 27, he needed to maximize his earnings as nothing is promised in his next contract even if his production out values that of the salary of this contract.
Others complained that Nylander’s new contract may cause issues with signing Matthews and Marner, and many were upset that Nylander didnt take a cut in his demands so the Leafs could sign Matthews and Marner. Let that sink in, does anyone really believe the camps for Matthews, Marner or any other player across the NHL whose contracts are coming up give a damn about their respective teams, teammates or the sport of hockey?
This takes me to the comments made by Maple Leafs’ team President Shanahan and ex-NHL player Jeremy Roenick’s about Nylander during the time of the Nylander contract negotiations. Where both stated that Nylander should put team and love of the sport first, and take less to win a cup. This sounds great, and made for great radio play and on social media but these comments were disingenuous.
Where were these sentiments when Shanahan and Roenick’s generation caused the league to lose the full 2004-2005 season, were they so concerned about winning the cup or having more money in their pockets? I would like to know how much concern they had once the salary cap came in which saw some of their own teammates lose their jobs because teams needed to rid themselves of certain 3rd and 4th line players to squeeze underneath the camp.
But don’t worry for them folks, I am sure that the new cars, new cottages on the Muskokas and a couple more millions in their bank accounts eased a lot of the pain Shanahan and Roenick had for their teammates, the fans, the game of hockey and for causing there not to be a Stanley Cup final in 2005.
In closing, Nylander wasn’t greedy and it didn’t mean he doesn’t love the name on the front of the jersey, the fans or the sport. What he did was well within his rights as an NHL player, and no one should judge him for getting the best deal he could with the limitations of being a restricted free agent.
What it did show was that there is a business side that everyone from players, management, media and fans all need to look at pragmatically and not emotionally. I for one am excited to have Nylander back, a Maple Leafs team with Nylander playing is even more dangerous and offers a lot more nightmarish match-ups for opposing teams. Having Nylander back is another piece in the Stanley Cup puzzle.