‘Beyond the Headlines’ is a deeper dive into some of the stories — and even some that weren’t — discussed each week on Hockey Night in Canada’s ‘Headlines’ segment.
Rewind to the early days of William Nylander v. Toronto Maple Leafs and there were four potential outcomes on the table. You had:
A) Nylander signs a short-term contract with Toronto.
B) Nylander signs a long-term contract with Toronto.
C) Toronto trades Nylander.
D) Nylander sits out the entire NHL season.
The list of possible outcomes has been whittled down in the 118 days since Kyle Dubas met with Nylander’s agent, Lewis Gross, at the NHL Draft in Dallas and travelled to Zurich to speak directly with the player this week.
Option B isn’t in the cards. There is no long-term contract coming here. The Leafs can’t find an AAV that both fits in with their long-term cap projections and is large enough to entice Nylander to sign for six, seven or eight years at this time.
I’m also inclined to strike Option D off the list. There is nothing to suggest he’s willing to stretch this past Dec. 1 — the deadline for when Nylander needs to sign a contract to be eligible to play in the NHL this season.
It doesn’t make sense financially or philosophically to spend the year in Europe. Nylander could expect to earn roughly $40,000 (USD) gross per month if he played in Sweden, according to a prominent player agent in that country. But he’d have to commit to the entire season, with no out clauses permitted in SHL contracts.
Yes, there’s more money to be had if he’s willing to move to Russia and play in the KHL, but it wouldn’t be anywhere close to what he could get from the Leafs, who are likely to structure a deal with a hefty signing bonus to minimize the financial hit he’s taken for the days lost already. On a $15-million, three-year contract — a reasonable spot for the sides to land here — he would be paid nearly $27,000 (USD) per day on average throughout the rest of the season.
With only Options A and C still in play, this would seem to hinge on Nylander’s desire to remain in Toronto. The Leafs believe the 22-year-old still wants to be part of the organization — a view unchanged after Wednesday’s face-to-face meeting in Switzerland — and they’ve so far resisted exploring the trade market in any meaningful way.
A hypothetical fifth option once hung out there for Nylander, the vaunted offer sheet, but it’s been more than five years since one of those was signed by an NHL player. Last week, we explored why Nylander won’t break that streak.
He’s either going to sign a bridge deal in Toronto or be moved elsewhere. One or the other. That’s how this thing finally ends.
Now, we ask: How long will the Leafs wait before shifting their focus from Option A to Option C?
With the Dornbirn Bulldogs facing back-to-back games against Orli Znojmo and KAC Klagenfurt this weekend, head coach Dave MacQueen joked that he wouldn’t have any trouble finding a spot for Nylander in his lineup.
Willy could be the Austrian Gretzky.
Alas, Nylander instead rolled out of town Friday after taking part in three practices with the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga team that plays beside the tennis centre where his sister Jacquline trains.
When they last spoke on Friday afternoon, MacQueen told the bearded, long-haired Swede he hoped not to see him again. That would mean Nylander’s contract standoff was over. However, he also made it known that the Bulldogs are next scheduled to practice on Tuesday and he’s more than welcome to come back for another skate.
The dream of Austrian Gretzky lives on.
L.A. HOT SEAT
My partners-in-crime, Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos, were all over the developing drama in Los Angeles on ‘Headlines.’
Only eight games into the new season and it’s not a stretch to label it dramatic. The Kings have dropped four in a row by scores of 5-1, 4-1, 7-2 and 5-1 — the last of which came against Buffalo on Saturday afternoon and prompted a long closed-door meeting afterwards.
The one quote that jumped out among the Kings post-game thoughts came from defenceman Jake Muzzin: “We’ve accepted being OK and it’s not OK. It’s not working. It’s going to be a long year and guys’ll be moved if this continues, and it’s not what we want.”
This is not what GM Rob Blake envisioned when he signed Drew Doughty to an $88-million, eight-year extension over the summer and won the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes. This team is built with the idea of winning now. And they’ve won just two of eight out of the gate.
The tough start has coach John Stevens on the hot seat.
Brother Nick reported that he’s hearing Stevens’s colleagues in Philadelphia (Dave Hakstol), St. Louis (Mike Yeo) and Edmonton (Todd McLellan) are feeling pressure as well.
Meanwhile, Alain Vigneault continues to be paid not to work by the New York Rangers. Elliotte doesn’t think he’ll be waiting too much longer for another job opportunity.
The next month looms large in determining Matt Duchene’s future in Ottawa. He’s held up his end of the bargain since arriving via trade from Colorado — sitting at 0.76 points per game with the Sens following a goal and well-earned assist on Mark Stone’s overtime winner Saturday — but he’s watched the organization he was thrilled to join come apart at the seams inside a calendar year.
Now Ottawa is off to a surprisingly prosperous start at 4-2-1, and seems to have found some beyond-their-years talent in defencemen Max Lajoie and Hotsam Batcho — err, Thomas Chabot.
So where does that leave Duchene, the UFA-in-waiting?
Open to listening, at minimum. Preliminary conversations between his agent Pat Brisson and general manager Pierre Dorion on an extension got going this week.
It’s premature to accurately handicap where this is headed. By the end of November, we’ll have a much better idea if he’s willing to commit to Ottawa long-term or if Dorion will be giving him the Erik Karlsson/Mike Hoffman/Derick Brassard/Dion Phaneuf/Kyle Turris treatment before the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
One final word on the two-game suspension handed to Michael Matheson by George Parros, the thoughtful dean of NHL discipline: Hockey doesn’t exist in a bubble.
So much of the pushback against the department of player safety on this one came from Parros’s peers — former players who felt Matheson’s dangerous takedown of Elias Pettersson constituted a “hockey play.”
Those dissenting voices were guilty of looking to the past rather than the future. The sporting world at large has already moved beyond debating whether this kind of hit should be considered legal. Rugby players, for example, face huge sanctions for lifting an opponent and driving them head-first into the turf — a takedown known as a spear tackle.
What we consider to be an allowable “hockey play” needs to evolve and change over time. It can be driven by factors far beyond the ice.
Parros and his staff recognized that and got this one right.