All to­gether now

Dubas gets first piece of Maple Leafs’ RFA puz­zle in place with Ny­lan­der sign­ing, Matthews, Marner next

Sunday Sports - - SPORTS - TERRY KOSHAN [email protected]­media.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Maple Leafs are whole again.

And gen­eral man­ager Kyle Dubas is smil­ing again.

The Leafs did a high-wire act in ne­go­ti­a­tions for the past sev­eral months with William Ny­lan­der and then got in un­der the wire on Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon, sign­ing the winger to a six-year con­tract ex­ten­sion with just min­utes to spare be­fore the 5 p.m. ET dead­line.

Next up, of course, are Aus­ton Matthews and Mitch Marner, the high­est-pro­file Leafs among a group headed for re­stricted free agency next sum­mer.

“We want this group to be to­gether as long as we can pos­si­bly keep it to­gether, and we hope that all these guys can be ca­reer Leafs, es­pe­cially this young group of core play­ers that we have,” Dubas said dur­ing a scrum with re­porters at the Xcel En­ergy Cen­ter ap­prox­i­mately 90 min­utes af­ter the Ny­lan­der sign­ing be­came of­fi­cial.

“It’s ob­vi­ously a very ex­cit­ing group, and one that has ex­cited our fans, and our city, and that’s our goal, to keep it to­gether as long as it can roll.”

Did Dubas think the con­tract might not get done with Ny­lan­der, a sce­nario which would have made the 22-yearold in­el­i­gi­ble to play in the NHL this sea­son?

“I think we al­ways try to re­main op­ti­mistic, and you know, have faith that our of­fers were fair, and that they were com­ing from a good place as well,” Dubas said. “In the end, him miss­ing a full sea­son and it go­ing across 5 o’clock wouldn’t have been good for any­body, not for the team, not for William. So you al­ways main­tain that faith as it gets closer to the dead­line, you start to maybe doubt it a lit­tle bit, but in the end we’re happy it ended with him sign­ing, for sure.”

The con­tract car­ries an an­nual av­er­age value of $10.2-mil­lion US this sea­son and an AAV of slightly over $6.95-mil­lion in years two through six.

Dubas said he was in touch di­rectly with Ny­lan­der through­out the process, and said the turn­ing point came on Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon ap­prox­i­mately a half-hour be­fore the dead­line when the player and agent Lewis Gross got in touch and in­di­cated they were ready to get the deal done.

Both sides were able to keep emo­tions on hold dur­ing the months-long process, which was cru­cial.

“We’ve talked on the phone, texted, we’ve stayed in touch,” Dubas said of his con­tact with Ny­lan­der.

“I know peo­ple can make it seem like it’s con­tentious, and maybe at points peo­ple deemed that it was, but when (Ny­lan­der) gets back and gets rolling it’ll all be gone, and we’ll be thrilled to have him back.”

When Ny­lan­der suits up for the first time is to be de­ter­mined. Ny­lan­der has been skat­ing in Swe­den, but will have to have his med­i­cal be­fore hit­ting the ice. Dubas warned against the idea of pos­si­bly see­ing Ny­lan­der in uni­form when the Leafs visit the Buf­falo Sabres on Tues­day; the Leafs’ next game af­ter that is at home ver­sus the Detroit Red Wings on Thurs­day.

With Ny­lan­der back, ex­pect one of Josh Leivo or Tyler En­nis to come out of the lineup. The Leafs will have to send a player to the Toronto Mar­lies, and the lead­ing can­di­date is Justin Holl, if not fel­low de­fence­man Martin Mar­incin. Each would re­quire waivers.

Dubas and his right-hand men, as­sis­tant GMs Bran­don Prid­ham and Lau­rence Gil­man, will now turn their at­ten­tion to sign­ing Matthews and Marner. Dubas has no de­sire to still be ne­go­ti­at­ing with ei­ther af­ter camp starts next Septem­ber.

“We’ve had dis­cus­sions with Judd Mol­daver (Matthews’ agent) and Dar­ren Fer­ris (Marner’s agent), and we want to avoid a sit­u­a­tion where not all of our play­ers are here at train­ing camp,” Dubas said. “This is the fur­thest one of these has ever gone, within five min­utes of the dead­line.

“That’s our plan, to have ev­ery­body avail­able for the first day of train­ing camp. We have shown that when it comes to mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing fits our eco­nom­ics, we’ll go to what­ever length we have to. But our goal is to have ev­ery­body set­tled as soon as they can be. That will al­low us to have the best plan for the re­main­der of the year.”

We want this group to be to­gether as long as we can pos­si­bly keep it to­gether, and we hope that all these guys can be ca­reer Leafs, es­pe­cially this young group of core play­ers that we have. Kyle Dubas

GRA­HAM HUGHES/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Af­ter fi­nally sign­ing William Ny­lan­der to a con­tract ex­ten­sion, Maple Leafs gen­eral man­ager Kyle Dubas (in­set) and his staff will turn their at­ten­tion to sign­ing pend­ing re­stricted free agents Aus­ton Matthews (right) and Mitch Marner.

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