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Why it would be idiotic to trade Nylander or Marner at all

Has there ever been a worse time to be a Maple Leafs fan?

Not only did they COMPLETELY OVERPAY for a player in free agency, it was at a position that they already have lots of quality players in. Number crunching Dubas seemed to get the math wrong, and forget that teams are only allowed three (3) elite forwards on a team. By doing this, he’s completely screwed the team, and now they have to get rid of one of Matthews, Marner, or Nylander in order to stay under this cap.

Look at the Edmonton Oilers, who ran into this problem a couple years ago when their team consisted of McDavid, Hall, Eberle, and Draisaitl. As a result, they had to rush a trade to get rid of Hall to stay under this cap, and only got Adam Larsson in return (and that’s the only reason Peter Chiarelli made that trade). That put the franchise in a mess, and they’ve gone downhill since.

This is the situation the Leafs have put themselves in by acquiring John Tavares, and as such are going to have to trade one of the big three to keep under this cap.

Wait.

I’m so sorry.

It seems I have briefly went into a lapse of complete insanity, and seemed to think that trading any of the Leafs elite core of forwards was even remotely a good idea.

Well, this has been the media’s #1 strategy to dealing with the Leafs cap problems and defensive holes (except they only want to trade Nylander). Personally, this is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard, and probably gives us a good idea why these media members aren’t working in management when they think this is the only way to fix the problem, while KYLE DUBAS HIMSELF has even said that they can keep them. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather listen to a GM who just convinced John Tavares to join his team and convinced his former boss to take on Matt Martin’s contract than the guy who starts any tweet about this issue with “Maybe I’m wrong” or “Call me stupid”, because odds are, they are wrong or stupid.

It’s an argument that is (probably) more about the clicks than the actual strength of the argument itself, but unfortunately, it exists. So, instead of continuously TELLING you why it’s idiotic, I’m going to EXPLAIN why it’s idiotic.

You Rarely Get Good Return on Star Players

Here’s the biggest problem with trading a star player: they are usually the best player involved in that trade, and usually, the teams that get the better player in the trade win the trade. Sometimes, trading star players can get you a player of equal value in return in a one for one (of course, I’m referring to the Johansen/Jones trade, not the Subban/Weber or Hall/Larsson trades, those two were bad), and sometimes you can lose the trade when you’re originally getting the best player of value (I’m talking to you, Brian Burke, trading for Phil Kessel before it was cool).

But, a majority of the time, the teams that trade the star players lose the trade. You need to look no further than some of the recent trades to verify this.

  • There were the aforementioned one for one trades that happened on June 29, 2016 that are already costing the teams that traded the better player (Montreal and Edmonton), as Hall just won the Hart trophy with New Jersey, and Subban was a Norris nominee, while both Montreal and Edmonton suck.
  • When the Leafs traded Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh, they didn’t exactly get a great return, although a lot of those picks and players have been moved around to be parts of other deals (Harrington turned into Rychel who was part of the deal for Plekanec, Spaling and Polak were traded for two second round picks, the first round pick was part of the Andersen deal), but the best player they got out of it was Kapanen, who’s great, but he’s no Phil Kessel. Also, the Leafs retained salary on that trade.
  • The Bruins got three picks for Dougie Hamilton, an elite defenseman, and the best player of that deal was Frosbacka-Karlsson, who’s not bad per say, but also not an elite defenseman.
  • The Senators traded Jason Spezza for Chiasson (who they traded for the guy that arguably ended Clarke MacArthur’s career), Guptill, Paul, and a pick that didn’t amount to much either.
  • The Canucks didn’t get a whole lot for Ryan Kesler either, who was dealt for Luca Sbisa, Nick Bonino, a 1st that became Jared McCann (who was traded for Erik Gudbranson), and a third that they used to trade for Derek Dorsett.
  • Tyler Seguin got traded for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow, and Matt Fraser, while they also gave up Rich Peverley and Ryan Button. Not exactly a steal either.

You see what I mean, a lot of underwhelming returns for elite talents. It goes to show why Pierre Dorion is taking his time trading Erik Karlsson, because when you rush these kind of trades, you don’t get what you want. Dorion of all people should know this, after watching Joe Sakic, who took at least a year to trade Matt Duchene, pile in seven assets. If he takes his time with Karlsson, he should get a good return.

That’s one of the big reasons why you don’t try and trade Nylander or Marner right now, and that’s because you don’t need to right now. If you think you need to right now, you’re going to rush a trade that will get you Adam Larsson, or a pile of players and picks that amount to nothing.

This also leads to my other reason…

Nov 16, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev (22) controls the puck against New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood (44) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated New Jersey 1-0 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs Don’t Have a Cap Problem Right Now

One of the big reasons that people think Nylander or Marner should be dealt is because either the Leafs are currently in cap trouble, or are going to be in cap trouble down the road. If that’s your line of thinking, you should probably take a look at the Leafs cap situation right now.

The Leafs currently have more than $15 million in cap space, and only have to re-sign Nylander, Johnsson, and Gauthier. Assuming that Nylander signs for about $6 million, and Johnsson and Gauthier take deals below $1 million (although I wouldn’t be apposed to giving Johnsson a Jarnkrok-style deal either), that gives the Leafs roughly $7-9 million in cap space going into this season, depending on the specific terms of the contracts.

You know what $7-9 million in cap space going into this season means for the Leafs? It means that the Leafs don’t have a cap problem right now. The team they currently have put together does not break any salary cap rules, so it means it can stay together for this season. That means that the Leafs currently do not need to trade someone to stay under the salary cap.

“But they’re going to have cap problems in a year or two, so they should try and fix that now!”

Well, there’s a famous saying about inevitable things in life, and last time I checked it wasn’t death, taxes, and the Leafs having cap problems, it was just death and taxes. Sure, the Leafs are going to need to re-sign Matthews and Marner, and maybe Gardiner, but trying to fix the cap now to help that down the road is assuming a lot of things to happen. That’s assuming that the cap will stay exactly where it is (it won’t), that Matthews, Marner, and Nylander are going to take large deals (they might not), and that the Leafs won’t look at other pieces to keep their core together (they will).

Who knows, maybe having Tavares join the team will boost the Leafs’ revenue (and adding Karlsson will boost the Lightnings’), and that revenue will cause the cap to spike up. It sounds crazy, but the league went from $75 million to $79.5 million in a year, and the league is just starting to be more interesting. I wouldn’t plan my salary cap around it going up a lot, but I also wouldn’t plan it assuming that it won’t go up at all.

Who knows, maybe Matthews, Marner, and Nylander look at Tavares leaving a couple million per year on the table to win with the Leafs, and take more team friendly deals. Maybe Matthews signs for $8-9 million, and maybe Marner and Nylander sign for $5-6 million. Sounds crazy, but Tampa Bay has been doing it for years (although they have the benefit of a tax free state) to keep the team together.

Both of those ideas rely on a lot of hypotheticals and what ifs, but so does trading them to make cap room now. It’s not a problem now, so you don’t need to address it now. That doesn’t mean that you don’t plan for it to happen, but you don’t put that plan into action unless the problem is close to happening, or it already is happening.

And if it does happen, star players aren’t the ones you trade. Look at the Blackhawks and Penguins. A lot of their success can be credited to not trading their core pieces. When they get into cap trouble, you trade your Matt Hunwicks and Rob Scuderis and Marcus Krugers and Trevor van Riemsdyks and Andrew Shaws and Bryan Bickells, not players like Crosby, Malkin, Toews, Kane, Letang, Keith, etc. It might cost you picks or players like Conor Sheary and Teuvo Teravainen, but those players at their best aren’t going to be as good as your star players.

The key is to pick the right core players though. The Blackhawks really blew this one last year, extending Seabrook and trading Hjalmarsson, and trading Panarin for Saad. You could argue those were the reason they missed the playoffs this year.

So, if the Leafs get into cap trouble, and they eventually will, they look to trade the players like Nikita Zaitsev or even Patrick Marleau if you’re in a real crunch, and you let guys like Ron Hainsey walk if they want money and term, and either replace them with guys in the minors (Justin Holl, Carl Grundstrom, Timothy Liljegren, etc.) or with free agents willing to take cheap one or two year deals (Tyler Ennis).

So, to wrap this whole thing up, I will conclude with what I said at the very beginning: TRADING MARNER OR NYLANDER IS A TERRIBLE IDEA! Don’t even think about it. Seriously, don’t.

Besides, if the Leafs win the cup, I wouldn’t care if Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Tavares put the team in cap hell for the next ten years, if it means seeing them win it once.

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  • Jroc

    Well said. It’s not like their problem is old guys signed too long that they are trying to parachute out the door. Having too many good players under team control is a hell of a good time.

  • mst

    There is no Cap problem ever. Marleau has and never had any intention of playing the last year of his contract. After his last signing bonus payment next July 1 he will have 1.25 Mill left to be paid. There is no way he plays a full season and subjects his body to that abuse for that small amount. He will retire the Leafs will hire him as a consultant for 1.5 mill and trade his Cap hit. The team that takes the cap hit will have to pay $0 and get over 6 mill on their cap. A team trying to get to the salary floor would love that trade!

    Assume the cap rises by inflation and the Leafs can sign everyone to market rates and resign Gardiner at 6.5 if they want or use that money on another D man.

      • mst

        Kapanen will sign a deal similar to brown or hyman, after that he’s totally replaceable so long as we keep drafting and developing. He will likely get passed by a Marlie in a year or two anyway. Kapanen’s 4th line production was roughly the same as Matt Martin’s last year. No doubt it will be MUCH better this year but it’s not like he’s ever going to make the top six on this Leafs team anyway.

        Dermott will need a raise but that won’t happen for another 2 years and can be dealt with from annual cap increases.

      • magesticRAGE

        I think that will be the reason that Gardiner will be traded or allowed to walk. His cap hit will go to giving players raises, the ones that Seattle doesn’t snatch up. I mean, Dermott should take Gardiner’s place, Oziganov looks like a player and could get an extension, Lilgegren still has 3 more years on his ELC and could theoretically make the team this season, and Andreas Borgman & Callé Rosen are decent players that could get extended as well. Heck, even Hyman could be traded to clear space for more talented players on the cheap like Grundstrom, Engvall, or Travis Moore. Easy stuff

  • Saying a trade without a hypothetical return is idiotic is idiotic.

    If Carolina offered Dougie Hamilton and two first round picks straight up for William Nylander, it would be idiotic not to take that trade. If the Oilers offered Conor McDavid straight up for Mitch Marner, it would be idiotic not to make that trade.

    • mst

      I get what you’re saying but the examples you gave were of the other team being desparate to make a trade. The author here is saying that we shouldn’t be the ones initiating a trade of one of these guys for help on defense.

      Our defense will be much better just by having Kadri’s line back as a proper checking line rather than using him as a scorer like we did last year. Kadri was a super pest that could shut down top lines and draw penalties. Last year we used him with Marner and Marleau to score goals. That worked great but we weren’t stopping the opposition as much and we definitely weren’t drawing as many penalties.

      Next season that changes plus the other forward lines will be playing in the other teams end all night anyway.

      Leafs defense isn’t terrible and the team had the third highest goal differential last year. Add in Tavares and factor in growth from MNM and Kadri’s reuse as a checker and the goal differential will be tops in the league.

  • Drapes55

    I have to agree with this article 100%. I came across an article a few years ago written about how NFL teams approach free agency and I think that it would work well for NHL players. It’s called the 80/20 rule, basically for non star players typically GMs will look for someone who can give them 80% of the production for 20% of the price of the outgoing player. Basically, for example next year when Jake Gardiner needs a new deal, the Leafs could look to sign him for 5-6mill a year or look for a guy that can give them about 80% of what Jake gives you at a 2-3 mil. The 80/20 ration may not work perfectly in the NHL but if you could get a ratio that’s anywhere from 80/20 to 90/50 I think that’s a chance you take. This doesn’t apply to elite players like Tavares, Matthews, Marner, Nylander or Andersen, those guys you pay.