Contract negotiations are looming for Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner. With those three players, the Toronto Maple Leafs face critical decisions that will shape the team’s future. In this post, I want to consider what I believe to be the factors surrounding each player and the potential implications for the Maple Leafs’ organization.
What Now for Auston Matthews?
The key for Auston Matthews is his commitment and timing. It has been pretty clearly established that Matthews wants to stay in Toronto. That said, the key question revolves around the timing of his contract extension. It might be that a long-term deal is not on the horizon. However, the pressing concern is whether a deal can be reached by July 1st.
With Kyle Dubas gone, the negotiation process starts again with Brad Treliving. How will Treliving proceed if it is true that Matthews does desire to keep playing with the Blue and White?
What Now for William Nylander?
William Nylander finds himself in contract negotiations once again. While these do not seem as crucial as Matthews, they might in fact be. Nylander’s been growing as a player season in and season out. He’s getting better and is producing during the postseason.
The Maple Leafs want to explore all avenues so they can retain Nylander’s services. It would seem that the team needs to be flexible in seeing to finding ways to keep Nylander with the team.
What Now for Mitch Marner?
Mitch Marner’s situation is unique. He had his best season in 2022-23, putting up 99 points and garnering Selke Award consideration. But somehow, that doesn’t seem to be enough. He’s been criticized for not showing up during the postseason.
Despite all the Marner criticism, it seems the team believes in his abilities and contributions. Still, Marner is not immune to the pressures and criticisms he faces. As a result, does the organization expect that Marner’s next contract negotiations will be as divisive as his last one was?
It reminds me of the situation two weeks ago where former general manager Dubas discussed the pressure on his young family one day and then the next day sent team president Brendan Shanahan a contract revision asking for more money. If the team believes Marner’s talent makes him a long-term asset for the team, they might want to renegotiate another contract.
The Salary Cap Problem
However, in all this, there’s a major salary-cap consideration for the Maple Leafs. The team must engage in all these negotiations all the while considering the total impact on the team’s ability to manage its salary cap and roster.
When the Core Four was initially signed, the expectation was that the salary cap would rise. It didn’t because of the pandemic. That unforeseen circumstance had huge implications for the team’s success. As a result, the team must be diligent to strike a balance between securing these key players and its ability to maintain the flexibility it needs to sign the rest of the roster.
The big question is how these negotiations might impact the Maple Leafs’ comfort level about the direction the negotiations take. It might be that the team will see these negotiations reaching a point that deviated from the desired outcome. If that happens, that overarching concern could overshadow the individual desires of the players to stay.
The upcoming contract negotiations with Matthews, Nylander, and Marner represent crucial and team-defining events for the Maple Leafs. In all this, while the team would love to balance the players’ desires, it might not be able to do so.
The team’s financial landscape and long-term objectives should shape the outcome of any negotiations that take place. Navigating these considerations wisely is the only way to ensure their team’s continued success and stability.
What lies ahead for these talented players and the team as a whole? It should be a fun few weeks.