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Time for Maple Leafs’ Big Three to Put Money Where Mouths Are

The way things are typically done renders the Toronto Maple Leafs from maximizing their efforts to win a Stanley Cup. Could things change?

All three young Core Four Members of the Toronto Maple Leafs – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander – are facing a choice. When they negotiate their contracts, they are balancing their individual gain versus their team’s success.

There’s a lot of talk within the team about the “love” in the locker room. Yet, the stars are taking money away from the depth players by signing high-valued contracts for themselves. I’m not seeing much in the way of sharing the wealth among the team.

Contract Negotiations Are a Zero-Sum Game

Seems pretty crass to say it that way, doesn’t it? But the fact is that – with a finite amount of money the team can spend on all their players – it’s a zero-sum game. A zero-sum game is a situation where any gains made by one player are offset by equivalent losses experienced by other players, resulting in a net balance of zero.

Specifically, for every million that Matthews gets on his next contract, there’s another player (or two or three) who will have that exact amount shaved off his paycheque. Or there’s another player who could help that the team CANNOT pick up because they are out of money.

Related: Maple Leafs Will Miss Jason Spezza’s Loyalty

Seeking the Highest Salary vs. Helping the Team

The contract negotiations of elite athletes like Matthews, Marner, and Nylander are always problematic. There are implications far beyond how much each player will receive in a contract. These are the total salaries combined for building the roster.

However, seldom does anyone question the “get all you can” aspect of these negotiations. Then players seek the highest salary without prioritizing the team’s chances of winning and collective success. That’s the way it is, and it’s accepted. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It could be very different.

Mitch Marner’s History: No Home Town Discount

Marner has two more years left on his contract. The last time the Maple Leafs negotiated with him, there was posturing and threatening by his agent. The bottom line was that Marner (proudly) did not come close to taking a hometown discount. His agent seemed to revel in the fact that he was able to put the squeeze on his team and spoke about the bind he had the team in.

MItch Marner Maple Leafs 4
Mitch Marner Maple Leafs 4

However, what if Marner considered a different option? If he took a hometown discount, it would involve him accepting a lower salary. That lower salary would provide the team with more salary-cap flexibility. The decision could help the Maple Leafs to build a stronger roster, which would increase their chances of winning championships.

Marner’s negotiating tactic could involve weighing the long-term benefits of team success against maximizing his individual earnings. If he accepted a lower salary, Marner could contribute to creating a more balanced and competitive team. Would he even consider it?

William Nylander’s History: He Deserves a Raise, However …

William Nylander currently receives the lowest salary among the three players. He should be up for a significant raise. If he wanted to enhance his team’s chances of winning during the postseason, Nylander could engage in a negotiating tactic that involved accepting a salary increase less than his full market value. If he did so, he’d provide the team with additional salary cap flexibility to acquire or retain other key players.

Such a strategy could recognize the value of collective success and team chemistry. Nylander’s decision could also reflect his long-term financial planning, considering that team success and goodwill (leading to endorsements perhaps) resulting from it could lead to higher earnings in the future.

Related: Final Grades for Kyle Dubas’ Job with the Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews’ History: Balancing Max Salary and Team Needs

Auston Matthews is widely regarded as a cornerstone of the Maple Leafs’ team. It’s anticipated that he will receive a contract extension with a high average annual value (AAV). It could likely be the highest in the NHL. However, assuming he does sign a contract extension, the length of this extension might not be for the maximum term, allowing flexibility for future negotiations.

Auston Matthews Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews Maple Leafs

Matthews’ decision could become a balance between maximizing his individual wealth and providing the team with financial room to build a strong supporting cast. By negotiating a contract that balances a high AAV with a manageable term for the team, Matthews could contribute to the team’s success by ensuring sufficient resources to build a competitive roster.

All Three Players Have Options that Could Help the Team

There are choices facing Matthews, Marner, and Nylander. These choices are complex and buck tradition. However, they are viable options to “make all the money you can for yourself.”

Each player could weigh individual financial gain against the team’s chances of winning and the collective success the team could build. Indeed, seeking the highest personal salary is the way things are usually done. And really who’d blame the three?

Imagine If One Player Took a Team-Friendly Deal

But why not think differently? It might only take one to start the ball rolling. Can you imagine the goodwill these players could garner by playing softball in their next contracts? Such a move would endear them to the fans and the city.

Their agents will be pushing and pulling to get the deal for their players. But what is the best deal? Is it more personal money, or is it team success? Would each of these players leave an extra million on the table to help the team win a Stanley Cup?

There’s Another Choice than the Team Squeeze

There is another choice than squeezing the team for all it’s worth. That choice would be for each of these three players to consider the team’s salary cap needs and to cooperate by leaving some money on the table. That would allow the team to build a stronger roster that could lead to long-term benefits for both players and the organization.

William Nylander, Maple Leafs

Each player’s decision will be shaped by their personal priorities, negotiation strategies, and long-term planning. Negotiating a balance between individual gain and team success could prove crucial for the team as it pursues championships.

Related: Was Kyle Dubas’ Wife Responsible for His Move to the Penguins?



  1. Jon Harding

    June 3, 2023 at 6:59 am

    This is a different and very interesting concept OP. I also like to think of it in terms of what recourse fans have when a player and agent put the screws to a team through contract negotiations. I find the players and agents conveniently forget the fans during such negotiations. The point being, if Matthews, Marner and Nylander manage to squeeze the Leafs, get paid, don’t perform and negatively impact team success, then boos at games and cynicism in social media channels are entirely appropriate. Another concept I’ve dreamed about is why can’t captain John Tavares, who “loves” the Leafs, rejig his contract to put a million or two back in the kitty for the benefit of the team? It doesn’t work that way, many will say. Well then, don’t act so indignant when your backside is getting booed out of town.

    • RyanSTR

      June 3, 2023 at 9:57 am

      Not “many will say” it’s “all will say” because everyone knows you can’t shave money off an existing contract.

  2. gfinale

    June 3, 2023 at 6:02 pm

    For what you speak of and more, I cannot stand Marner and wish they would trade him before July 1. I highly doubt he would give up 1 dollar of what he thought he could get. I find the guy is all talk. He loves the team, the fans…while he puts the screws to them. Actions speak louder than words and I don’t see him as a team player AT ALL.

  3. gfinale

    June 3, 2023 at 6:14 pm

    I think the new GM should tell the 3 that he cannot pay 1 dime more than their current contracts in total. So, he’s got about 11+11+7=29 to spend on them. Either they figure it out or 1 is traded. One needs to be traded anyway. Raises, are you insane?! 7 years of poor playoffs and almost no cap increase. Nylander will be looking to make up for what he thinks (wrongly) he should have got last contract and be probably pushing it to 10 mil! If these 3 all resign, the Leafs are probably doomed again for the next 5 years!

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