Ny­lan­der, Leafs’ stand­off en­ter­ing fi­nal phase

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - KEVIN MC­GRAN

The end of the stale­mate be­tween Maple Leafs for­ward Wil­liam Ny­lan­der and gen­eral man­ager Kyle Dubas is get­ting closer, if only be­cause the cal­en­dar says so.

Ny­lan­der has un­til Dec. 1 to sign a con­tract — filed with the NHL’s cen­tral registry by 5 p.m. that day — or he will be in­el­i­gi­ble to play in the NHL this sea­son.

The Leafs, who opened their so-called “win­dow” to win­ning with the sum­mer­time sign­ing of free agent John Tavares, would most likely need Ny­lan­der or what­ever as­sets he can be traded for in or­der to get by Bos­ton and Tampa in the first two rounds of the play­offs.

So the stare­down is on.

The ques­tion is, will ei­ther side blink?

“It’s a tough sit­u­a­tion, and I think it’s re­ally go­ing to get in­ter­est­ing,” says Brian Law­ton, who has been a player, agent and GM in the NHL and now works for NHL Net­work. “It’s up to Kyle Dubas to re­ally lis­ten closely, to cre­ate flex­i­bil­ity among his team. He can’t get too fo­cused on, ‘It has to be this way.’

“If you don’t have some abil­ity to com­pro­mise, you’re in trou­ble.”

Both sides have put a cone of si­lence on talks, though they have in­ti­mated they’re will­ing to out­last the other. At this point, they may just be killing time un­til the end of No­vem­ber, wait­ing to see what the other guy does.

“I think by Nov. 25 you’ll see the par­ties reach out to each other,” says Law­ton. “Both par­ties re­al­ize there’s an im­pend­ing dead­line, and they’re kind of killing time.”

The two sides are re­port­edly still a size­able amount of money apart. Ny­lan­der is said to be ask­ing for at least US$8 mil­lion per sea­son on a long-term deal, $6.5 mil­lion on a short-term. The Leafs are said to be of­fer­ing about $2 mil­lion less on both fronts.

“They’ve got to get it some­where in be­tween,” says for­mer GM Doug MacLean, now work­ing for Sport­snet. “If you slightly over­pay, and you can get him done, you can still move him when your cap crunch hits for rea­son­ably good as­sets. And by then maybe he’s not the guy you want to move.”

This is Dubas’s first sea­son as an NHL GM and his first trou­bling con­tract sit­u­a­tion. On the one hand, he likes the player, re­spects his talent and wants to win.

On the other, he can’t be seen to be soft, or to cave in. The book on him is be­ing writ­ten as agents as­sess his abil­i­ties.

“I think he’s got to make the state­ment, ei­ther: ‘You can’t do this to me,’ or ‘We’re only go­ing to pay you what you’re worth,’ or ‘We’re not go­ing to give you more just be­cause we’re the Toronto Maple Leafs,’ ” says for­mer NHL GM Neil Smith, now work­ing for ESPN.

Dubas has pub­licly said he will not trade Ny­lan­der. At the time, it sounded like an as­sur­ance to a player who would be wor­ried he’d be traded for an as­set the team might need more, namely a right-handed de­fence­man.

But, at this point, it could also sound like a threat: Sign or don’t play, be­cause there won’t be a trade.

If Ny­lan­der misses the sea­son and the Leafs re­tain his rights then his bar­gain­ing power will not have changed. He won’t get the min­i­mum 10 NHL games needed to have ar­bi­tra­tion rights.

“He’s put him­self in a spot where he has ab­so­lutely no rights, he’s sit­ting there hop­ing they’re go­ing to pay him what he wants. But he has no rights,” says Smith. “I’ve never un­der­stood a player or agent where they have no rights but think the team can’t do with­out him.

“I’m a real logic-based per­son and it de­fies logic that you could pos­si­bly lose the en­tire sea­son and never get it back and be in the same po­si­tion again next sea­son.”

CLAUS AN­DER­SEN GETTY IM­AGES

Toronto Maple Leafs for­ward Wil­liam Ny­lan­der has un­til Dec. 1 to sign a con­tract or he’ll be in­el­i­gi­ble to play in the NHL this sea­son.

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