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Hate for William Nylander is misguided … and more in mailbag

QUESTION: What purpose does waivers serve? Why does it exist? Was it negotiated by the players or the league? Why do the Leafs seem to have so many players that need to clear it? Do other teams have this problem?

Cheers, Randy

ANSWER: Waivers exist so that NHL-calibre players actually play in the NHL and aren’t stored away in the minor-league franchise of a handful of rich teams. It’s a right earned by players through time spent as a professional. The Leafs have so many players that need to clear — and lost a couple — because they stockpiled a lot of talent and developed a lot of talent in the minors. Every team has players that need to clear waivers. The Leafs got Curtis McElhinney that way from Columbus two years ago and lost him that way this week to Carolina. How would life have been for McElhinney had waivers not existed, and Columbus had been able to store him in their minors all that time?

QUESTION: Hey Uncle Kev. Great to see the Leafs start the season with a check in the win column. Have to say though I thought Montreal owned the game and without Freddie again, the result could have been much different.

Where was the touted offensive juggernaut that was promised to make up for the defensive warts that reared their ugly heads again. Yes, Jake Gardiner, looking at you …

I realize that it’s one game and a season doesn’t go the way of one game. But you’ve got a supposedly suspect Montreal team in a rebuilding year playing against the steamroller, as-advertised Leafs and they not only outshoot the boys in Blue, but force it to overtime, after scoring the first goal?

Question is: Does it come back to the coaching system that Babcock is using, as it eerily looked the same as last year’s debacle in the defensive zone? Seems to be a lot of confusion and failures to pick up loose guys that seem to get opportunities. I found it interesting to read the media saying that the Leafs had a goal to limit chances on Freddie and then they turn around and get outshot again by a third as much by the “lowly” Canadiens. Not a great stat to start the year with.

I look forward to your insight as always, and look forward to a great year for the Leafs, though a bumpy start.

I beleaf, do you?

John L in Kingston

ANSWER: Hey John. I’ve become a lot of people’s uncles through this Mailbag. I hope I’m the friendly one that falls asleep after too much turkey on Thanksgiving, and not the one that overstays his welcome. … Let’s not get too carried away on Jake Gardiner and questioning the offence just yet after one game. Gardiner is underrated. He makes mistakes, because everyone makes mistakes. The coach plays him more than the others because he’s good. … And maybe Montreal is better than most folks think. They’ve got a good goalie, some good shooters and a coach who is rewarding a work ethic. Kind of what Gerrard Gallant did last year in Vegas. It’s what Mike Babcock wants to do here in Toronto, but so many folks simply want him to play the kids on the first line instead of rewarding merit. Yes, the Leafs have their flaws, backchecking among them. It was a choppy game. But it’s too early to call it a trend.

QUESTION: If Nylander doesn’t sign by Dec. 1, he cannot play this year, but what happens next? Is he then a free agent?

ANSWER: He remains a restricted free agent whose NHL rights belong to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In such a case, he’d probably go play in Europe. And probably go through this again next year.

QUESTION: If William Nylander isn’t signed by Dec. 1 and sits out the year, does he have to wait an extra year to get to free agency?

Paul

ANSWER: I presume you’re asking about unrestricted free agency. Players attain UFA status if they are without a contract and at least 27 years of age, or if they have played seven years in the league. The actual term is seven “accrued seasons.” … A skater has to be on the roster for 40 games (a goalie 30) to “accrue” a season. In Nylander’s case, he’ll hit 27 and seven years in the league (if he plays this year) at the same time (end of the 2021-22 season). If he misses this season, his age will trump his years in the league.

QUESTION: Hi Kevin. A bit of a crossover question/comment for you. Doesn’t the Kawhi Leonard situation seem eerily similar to Phil Kessel’s tenure in Toronto: shy superstar, hates dealing with the media, is dealt to a media hotbed, with huge expectations placed on his shoulders? I’m not a huge NBA fan, but from what I’ve read about the guy, I kind of feel bad for him.

Also, congrats on the success of the Breakaway Blog and it’s new prominence with The Star. Too bad I won’t get to read it much any more because of this paid subscription business. I guess I’ll have to use my five free articles per month on the Breakaway Blog. Bummed.

Eli in Montreal

ANSWER: I guess there are similarities there, but player comparison is wrong. Folks that know basketball tell me Leonard is top five in the league. (Kessel was never that.) Kessel was supposed to lead the Leafs back into the playoffs, where they’d roll the dice and who knows what would happen. At the time seemed good enough. Leonard’s got way higher expectations on him. The Raptors are a playoff team with a window for winning closing. Could just be this year, if Leonard leaves.

QUESTION: Sorry, not feeling it for Josh Leivo. He’s just been exceptionally mediocre throughout the pre-season. Sadly, this is a guy who has been badly mishandled and probably has had his trade value degraded as a result.

By contrast, I thought Lindholm looked fine last Wednesday against Montreal. He made a very nice assist to Kapanen on the latter’s goal and didn’t appear out of place. Unlike Gauthier, he has some offensive skill. As an aside, Kapanen is wasted on the fourth line and should be up playing with Kadri when Nylander ultimately signs. His speed is highly effective, even more so when he is playing with really skilled players.

Finally, I note that Jake Gardiner was getting the garbage time on the second-team power-play. As he’s a season away from unrestricted free agency, I’m sure he can’t be thrilled with this development, as he’s unlikely to get 50-plus points if that’s his status as far as special teams go. He must have had at least 15 points or more on special teams last year? If I’m Toronto, I still try to sign him to a Ryan Ellis type of deal, although if Marner and Matthews both have monster years and remain unsigned through to the next offseason, the Leafs will have some cap challenges on their hands next year.

All the best and thanks for devoting so much time to this mailbag.

Marshall A

ANSWER: Poor Josh Leivo. Spends two years on the bench, with everyone on his side, and now folks want him to sit. Totally get wanting to see Kapanen more. By the end of the year, the lineup will be very different. I don’t think Gardiner sees the second power play as garbage time. He played on it last year. You’re right, a goal and 14 assists. (Morgan Rielly had a goal and 24 assists, by comparison.) Ryan Ellis is eight years, $ 50 million, or $ 6.25 AAV. Don’t mind the AAV, don’t see eight years. Gardiner is my choice to be squeezed out of this lineup, probably by Travis Dermott.

COMMENT: After 52 years, Leafs deserve the Stanley Cup 2019. Thank you ANDERSEN. Go LEAFS Go.

ANDY C.

REPSONSE: Okay then.

THE ARENA QUESTION …

COMMENT: (On what might be a new nickname for the Scotiabank Arena). The Vault, The Safe

Certainly spend “more money than you think” when you go to watch live.

Cheers, Elliot M

COMMENT: Kevin — call it THE VAULT. That is the perfect name for the arena.

Laurin J.

COMMENT: To me:

The Vault

The Fee

The Doig — he’d like that

The Post Office

BNS Centre

Austin’s Office

The Rec Room

The Wicket

The Money on Bay

The Bank on Bay Street

Don L

ARENA RESPONSE: Still like The Scobank.

QUESTION: Just a couple of random thoughts about the home opener:

As a former Star employee, I don’t remember it taking such a long time to get from Bitondo’s on Clinton St (pre-game veal sandwich) to the arena. Toronto traffic is way worse than I remember.

Was great to see the 48th Highlanders, too bad there weren’t more people in the stands.

And do really you need the non-stop music to be so loud, parachute T-shirt drops, Carlton the Bear dance-offs, exhortations to be loud, loud, louder, a double dose of reminders not to be an a-hole, etc?

Nice giveaway scarf this year.

The Leafs were lucky to get away with a win.

Matthews, Tavares and Marner look to be scary, the rest of them I’m not so sure. Except for Andersen.

Small sample size, but it looks like Price is back.

And a question – what happens with Nylander?

Thanks, and as always, looking forward to the Friday mailbag.

Allan H

RESPONSE: Thanks Allan. Don’t drive next time. Our subway system downtown is better than people think. If I say we don’t need the music to be so loud, everyone will say I’m old. So I wear sound-proof headphones. Best $ 200 I ever spent. Nylander will sign… Eventually.

QUESTION: If Nylander does not want to sign (or he would have by now) with a team with a good chance, maybe we do not want him anyway. He should be worried about his contribution, we want winners who can see the whole picture. I would be happy to take a little less just to be able to play with what TO has now. Let him take his greed elsewhere. There is more to it than that.

Don C

ANSWER: I honestly don’t understand the anger towards the player. He’s a free agent. This is his right, collectively bargained by the players’ association, the league and ratified by all the teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is not a widget. He is not a bot on a game. He wants what he believes he’s worth. It may take him time to realize things differently. It may take the team time to realize things differently. You’re not paying him. He’s not taking money out of your pocket. It will play out accordingly. The Leafs are fine without him in the interim. All that matters to Mike Babcock right now is getting the team ready for the playoffs. Nylander will be ready by then.

QUESTION: Thanks for your work.

1. I think Nylander will sign for $ 7 million sometime in November. The Toronto Star reference to capfriendly makes me think this, as the longer this issue takes the better it is for the salary cap. Everybody wins as this year Nylander would actually have a higher salary for the first year. What are your thoughts? Would the Leaf brass take a pay cut? Babcock?

2. When the Leafs signed Marleau I thought they screwed up in light of the young guns and their future salaries, although my neighbour disagreed. (And although I like Leafs Lunch I disagree with Andi Petrillo’s thoughts that the contract is “golden.”) But Marleau at two years was the longest term they should have given. Thornton’s signing one-year contracts. Aren’t the young guys leaders? Experience is that important from a guy who’s never won a Cup? Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen could score 27 if allowed the ice time and skilled players to play with. Look at Marner’s point projections when paired with Kadri. (Kadri has always been my favourite due to his skill — thank goodness they didn’t trade him. He never had skilled players around him and different linemates all the time. First game and the best player for 60 was Kadri as he wasn’t panicking like the rest. Forwards and defence need to get their act together.)

3. I think they overpaid Tavares as well, as Matthews and Marner may outpoint Tavares. If he really wanted to be here perhaps he should have taken Kucherov-type money? I’m not sure, however, how taxes effect this.

4. First game was terrible but for Kadri. Perhaps they need more time as we forget that really the lines are messed. Either new players, Marlies really, or Leivo starting for the first time. Perhaps return to the old lines? Tavares can run a line, making players better around him, and last year Babcock said Marner can as well. But he matched up better with Kadri last year rather than Bozak, JVR. I don’t think the Leafs should underestimate the importance of keeping this pair intact.

5. I noticed Igor Ozhiganov almost jumped over the boards before realizing NO! Is there a language concern here?

6. Par Lindholm’s hit on the Finnish guy, where did that come from? Will he only hit Finnish players? lol. They’re going to miss Martin. Maybe Wilson will keep getting himself suspended. Kadri, last of the Leaf hitters? Although Reilly was taking his man out along the boards the first game.

Thx, John H

ANSWER: Hey John … Are you trying to take my job with all these takeaways? Good stuff, but I disagree on a few points. … I wrote the Nylander/Capfriendly piece. I’m not sure the difference in salary-cap space is driving the delay, but it is worth noting. Regarding Marleau … ask yourself if they are better off with him or without him. Because he wasn’t coming here for two years. Three was his call. They wouldn’t have got him. That said, I firmly believe had Marleau not signed here, James van Riemsdyk would be here. Marleau got JVR’s money. Ditto Tavares. The money is what it took. So the price is the price. Tavares was only looking at teams that can win. The Leafs ponied up. Again with the kids … Do you want to simply play them more? Or do you want them to earn more ice time? The second question is the important one. It builds a team, it builds character, it rewards hard work. It’s about a long-term investment in the player.

Kevin McGran is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @kevin_mcgran

TORONTO STAR