“We can, and we will.”
The bold words spoken by Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas on Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek’s 31 Thoughts: The Podcast back in July put an end to the trade speculation involving William Nylander, the first of the three big names in need of his first non-entry-level contract.
But now nearing the end of September and just days away from the start of the 2018-19 regular season, Nylander remains unsigned and working out back home in Sweden.
As the details of the two sides’ progress remain unclear, the anxiety of Leafs fans slowly builds, but Dubas continues to stick to his words uttered nearly three months ago.
“I’m still confident,” said Dubas on an appearance on Prime Time Sports Tuesday. “I also understand that these things are not always simple and they take time and patience on all ends and that’s what we’re doing.”
Prior to signing John Tavares to a seven-year, $77 million contract, it seemed all but certain that the Big 3 of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nylander would be the long-term core of the club. After, although, many penned Nylander as the odd man out with the Leafs $11 million closer to the salary cap for the next seven years.
But part of Dubas’s pitch to the former New York Islanders captain during his courtship was to ensure that no sweeping changes would be made as a result of Tavares’s homecoming.
“[Tavares] didn’t want to go into a spot, as he has said a number of times since, and be subtracting from that spot to make him work,” said Dubas. “So we spent a lot of time going through and saying, ‘Okay, here’s what you can read and hear where John is going to come in at.’ … So you get a sense of that and then you build out the rest of the group and see where it all fits.
“You’ve got your internal calculations on what’s going to happen on the business side. The salary cap has gone up every year, you can’t be sure, but if you think probabilistically [and be] conservative and see where it all fits.”
And Dubas has ensured that he has been doing his due diligence and affirmed he knows where all parties’ camps currently stand.
“We’ve had discussions with all of their people as well,” he said. “Those discussions are ongoing and they will continue to be ongoing. Using the same logic as with William, they are obviously important players to our program.”
When it comes to Nylander, Dubas doubled down on his desire to lock up the 22-year-old for the long term and revealed that a short-term bridge deal would be “sub-optimal for both parties.”
“I’ve stated continually and will continue to state that William is a very key member of our program,” said Dubas. “We want him here for the long term. We think he can continue to help our program grow and develop and maximize [our] potential and we think we can continue to help him maximize his potential.
“That’s what we continue to work towards daily and our goal is to have it done as soon as possible.”
The longer the situation plays out the more attention it will draw, especially from the 30 other general managers around the league, many of whom would be itching to acquire a player of Nylander’s calibre. While Dubas admitted he’s accepting phone calls on the young winger — as he puts it, “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t accepting calls from teams” — he made it very clear that Nylander is not on the trading block.
“I can say absolutely that we are not shopping him.”