It might be fair to ask if the Alex DeBrincat trade to the Detroit Red Wings may have sparked concerns about the potential return if William Nylander were to be traded. After all, DeBrincat was moved for a less-than-stellar return and the Senators and Maple Leafs are/were in similar situations with both players looking to find long-term deals for a certain dollar figure and potentially not with their respective teams.
In the case of DeBrincat, his gamble didn’t necessarily pay off. Sure, he wound up moving to the only team he wanted to play for in Detroit, but he took less money and fewer years to get to his preferred destination. Nylander seems to be holding out for the highest dollar figure possible and he also seems prepared to use the leverage from imminent deals for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, plus a rising salary cap to get what he wants.
The Senators Had No Cards to Play
The Ottawa Senators had limited options and traded DeBrincat to the Red Wings for forward Dominik Kubalik, defenseman Donovan Sebrango, a 2024 conditional first-round pick, and a 2024 fourth-rounder. The Red Wings promptly signed DeBrincat to a four-year contract with an average annual value of $7.875 million. Some are saying this was a steal by Detroit, but Senators’ GM Pierre Dorion had little leverage and few cards to play.
Furthermore, DeBrincat had no intention of signing a long-term deal with the Ottawa Senators, leading to his trade. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun quoted comments from DeBrincat who confirmed as much and added, “We spent a year there and we just didn’t really have enough time to think about signing long-term there. I think there were probably better fits out there for me.” DeBrincat explained, “They made the decision to try to get something for me and avoid me walking for free next year. Once I said that I think the writing was on the wall and they were ready to move me.” Garrioch adds that DeBrincat never technically requested or demanded a trade, but his refusal to sit down and negotiate a long-term deal was essentially the same thing.
Garrioch goes on to say that, according to sources, DeBrincat expressed dissatisfaction with his second-line role behind Brady Tkachuk.
Maple Leafs Still Have Multiple Options
Several teams will likely show interest in Nylander. The Maple Leafs are among them as their preference would be to keep the player and sign him for a number that everyone is happy with. However, Nylander apparently wants $10 million per season and he might be willing to test the market and leave Toronto for nothing if there’s a team out there that will give it to him. Does that mean a trade becomes nearly impossible to do and get a good return? No.
The Maple Leafs have some flexibility to up their trade return, should they deem a move is the only possible outcome. First, they have the leverage in negotiations to say they’ll just keep the player. Should he choose to do so, he can either sign him and trade someone else, or move Nylander at the deadline (or trade his rights next summer). The latter is not at all ideal, but Toronto’s window to win is now, and keeping the player on the roster has merit. Teams will see that and adjust their offers accordingly.
From there, Treliving knows the market is about to be flooded with more money and multiple teams will be looking to spend it. Yes, a $10 million ask is not ideal and the market may shrink as a result, but they’ll be more cap space to play with and more teams with money to spend. The influx of another $3 million or so is the difference between teams not having the room and teams feeling like Nylander is a good value at $10 million. If the cap keeps going up, the number isn’t an albatross at all.
It’s key to remember that not everyone thinks the way Steve Yzerman thinks. He hates long-term deals, but locking a good player in at a number that looks like a bargain three years from now isn’t the worst play and many GMs will try to find those players in free agency or trade.
Ultimately, DeBrincat was leaving one way or another. He forced the Senators into a trade and the only team Debrincat was willing to sign with was Detroit. Nylander is likely much more open to options, as long as those options offer him the cash he wants. There is certainly going to be a market there.
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