Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas knows that not everyone agrees, but he once suggested the Toronto Maple Leafs have no bad contracts that need addressing. Specifically, he noted, “We don’t really have any contracts that we look at and say, ‘We need to get rid of this player. This player isn’t delivering on it at all,’” He’s probably not wrong, but it’s an interesting assessment worth taking a closer look at and asking how on point Dubas actually is?
While some believe the inevitable other shoe will have to drop for the Maple Leafs and they’ll eventually need to trade one of their core four players — Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander – John Tavares– , Luke Fox of Sportsnet wrote in a recent Sportsnet mailbag segment that Dubas is under the belief the team is in good shape contract wise and he tends to agree. Essentially, Fox notes there are no monster contracts for players who are producing absolutely nothing or need to be buried in the minors, eating away at the Leafs ability to do anything or improve the team.
That’s accurate if you look at the Leafs roster being free of players demoted to the AHL, skaters the team might consider buying out or assets that can’t be traded (sans of course, no-move and no-trade clauses). Insiders often refer to these types of contracts as albatross deals where big money is going out to a player who isn’t producing and there’s just no way to shake free of them. The Leafs are free and clear of those.
But, does that mean the team doesn’t have any “bad contracts?”
Where Does John Tavares Rank?
Again, things look pretty good in that respect with the potential exception of one pretty big name.
While few have argued the deal is a steal, some are starting to wonder when the contract for a player like John Tavares is going to move from fair to troubling. He’s got five more seasons at $11 million per season on his current deal and he’s not going anywhere. If his production starts to slip, that’s a huge chunk of change that can’t be moved because of the dollar figure attached, down revenues in the NHL and his very obvious no-move clause.
The bigger problem isn’t so much that Tavares won’t be productive. He’s probably good for 60-70 points even if things fall off a cliff, which again takes him out of albatross territory. Where there could be a future issues is in having to accept that should the team not take their next steps towards playoff success, it’s Tavares’ contract the team will be stuck with and one of the other core four forwards will have to be moved.
One could argue that any time a GM wants to move a player but can’t, that’s the definition of a bad contract. Will Tavares ever reach that point? Some are arguing he already has.
Furthermore, should the Maple Leafs not take the next step as a group or find success with this new mix of veterans on low-cost deals and top-end talents, how long of a leash do Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe actually have with the group assembled as is?
Dubas is right in suggesting the Leafs don’t have contracts on the books that bring cause for panic. But, that doesn’t mean at least one of his contracts creates a bit of uncertainty when it comes to his job security.
Where do you fall on this debate?
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