With everything that has gone on over the past 24 hours with the Toronto Maple Leafs, there are new questions to be piled on top of old questions that required answers. Specifically, how will the Maple Leafs quickly shifting gears on their GM affect the players and their ability or willingness to stay with an organization that seems to be crumbling, or at the very least, uncertain about their future?
As it stands now, the team doesn’t know who their GM is going to be heading into a critical time in their franchise’s history. Kyle Dubas is out, Jason Spezza has resigned, Sheldon Keefe might be tied to Dubas and players like Auston Matthews and William Nylander each have one year remaining on their contracts and it would be potentially disastrous to let either walk into a situation where they controlled their own fate. To say the organization is falling on potentially hard times and in a position to make monumental decisions would be an understatement.
Both Matthews and Nylander can renegotiate contracts on July 1, and specifically, Matthews has a no-move clause that kicks in on that date. If he’s not signed to an extension, he could squash any potential trade offers and simply walk into free agency and bolt. It was already going to be a tricky spot for the Leafs, even with Dubas (someone Matthews is close to) doing the negotiating. With Dubas now out and an uncertain GM coming in, what will Matthews think?
Related: Spezza Shows Loyalty to Dubas, Resigns From Maple Leafs Job
According to Elliotte Friedman, the NHL superstar might simply wait things out. Friedman notes, “I think at the very least now you have to be prepared for the possibility that he’s not going to commit by July 1 and you may have to go into next season without an answer…What’s the guarantee he or Nylander are going to commit by July 1?” In other words, why would either star want to commit long-term if neither knows where this franchise is headed?
For example, what if a new GM comes in and immediately trades Mitch Marner? What if Matthews only wants to stay if Marner is part of the team? The chances he has that answer by July 1 are slim. Or, what if both want to know who the new head coach is going to be, assuming the Leafs remove Sheldon Keefe and go in another direction? Will Toronto have fired Keefe and hired someone else by then? It’s possible, but again, it feels questionable.
Once That July 1 Date Hits, All Bets Are Off
Once the Maple Leafs and these two players get past the point of no return, there’s not much incentive for either Matthews or Nylander to hurry into a decision. They can wait, see how the team does, what the roster looks like, and then pick their destination. Both will have plenty of options.
The only leverage the Maple Leafs will have will be threatening the idea that either or both could be traded if they don’t commit. If both/neither don’t want to be dealt, perhaps they think about signing. Even then, trades for such big names take time. Are the Maple Leafs really prepared to pull the trigger on a deal that feels rushed?
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