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ANALYSIS: Contracts like the one signed by Leafs’ Nylander wouldn’t fly in Winnipeg

No one could blame William Nylander for taking the money. Given an identical scenario, we’d all be lining up to ink a contract as rich as the one he signed the other day.

But what the Toronto Maple Leafs entered into on Monday was honestly myopic, somewhat irresponsible and certainly impulsive. Nothing personal to Nylander, but an eight-year, $92-million contract for another offensive player devoid of grit and — at best — decent defensively is a gamble.

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When Nylander’s new deal kicks in next year, the Maple Leafs will employ four players — all forwards — making $11 million or more a season. That fab four — consisting of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Nylander — will soak up half of the Leafs’ $88-million salary cap next season. Half!

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That’s not only risky on the part of the Leafs, but also frivolous, as essentially, they’re all the same player: highly skilled, offensively prolific, but at the same time redundant. And the signing of another forward to a mega contract does nothing to improve Toronto’s greatest exposures: goaltending and their blueline.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander (88) skates during first period NHL action against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 21, 2023, in Buffalo, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes

It’s almost like the Leafs have theorized they’ll win the Stanley Cup by beating everyone 6-5 in overpaying in one area at the expense of another. That type of thinking has many around the NHL wondering how their current construction provides any path to winning.

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Locally, it won’t be a day anytime soon that you’ll see a $10 million-plus player on the Winnipeg Jets. To their credit, that type of spend just doesn’t work into their model, but in Toronto — where 1967 isn’t a memory for many fans but a historical date — why spread the money around responsibly to better your team overall when you can just potentially try to outscore your mistakes?

Nobody will criticize William Nylander for signing the richest contract in Maple Leafs History, but if Toronto doesn’t become a perennial Stanley Cup contender soon and for many years to come, then tying up all that money into just four players is kind of like being the richest man in the graveyard.

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