Hockey October 18, 2018


Seguin’s negotiation turned from supposedly contentious to totally successful on a dime. So we shouldn’t necessarily assume the end is nigh for Nylander’s days as a Leaf.

Tyler Seguin.|Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

Kyle Dubas’ trip to Switzerland has an air of urgency swirling around it, and for good reason. If RFA William Nylander doesn’t sign a contract by Dec. 1, he can’t play for the Toronto Maple Leafs or any NHL team this season. That’s the doomsday scenario for Dubas. And the optics of the overseas journey tell us the Leafs GM takes it very seriously at this point.

There’s a glass-half-empty perspective to the entire Nylander negotiation: that his requested AAV of $8 million is an impossible ask, that he hasn’t produced that value in the NHL thus far, that a long-term pact at that cap hit will damage the far-pricier incoming negotiations with bank-breaker RFAs Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. The pointed comments by coach Mike Babcock even imply Nylander won’t return to the fuzziest environment, that he’ll have to earn his way back into a prominent lineup spot.

Sure, that’s one way to look at it. And, sure, the chances Toronto trades Nylander have skyrocketed compared to even a month ago. But sometimes these narratives are just that – narratives, constructed by us media types based on how we think the negotiating parties perceive the situation. Once we have the benefit of hindsight, things aren’t always what they seem.

Remember when Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin said at BioSteel camp he was “disappointed” in his extension negotiations with the Dallas Stars? When it supposedly put the screws to GM Jim Nill and set Seguin up to become the next John Tavares in summer 2019? Yeah, about that…none of it was true.

As Nill explains, Seguin was merely caught off guard with the question, answered it as best he could on the spot and immediately contacted Nill afterward to reassure him what he said didn’t reflect how he felt.

“I was confident that something was going to get done, and after I talked at BioSteel camp, I learned from even watching it how my words in media can go, which is a learning experience too with negotiations,” Seguin said.

“I said, ‘Don’t worry Tyler, that’s part of life,’ ” Nill said. “It wasn’t an issue with me. But it gets hyped up because of the media.”

As Seguin added, the talks had “hit a wall,” and between one evening phone call and walking to the rink the next morning, a major breakthrough happened, and boom, the contract was done one sleep after it didn’t seem close. Seguin inked an eight-year, $78.8-mllion extension, announced Sept. 13.

So what can the Seguin story teach us? That negotiations aren’t always as contentious as they’re portrayed to be. Players understand that hockey is a business and don’t always take things personally. That doesn’t mean we’re about to learn of a lucrative eight-year extension for Nylander. Maybe it means he makes like Nikita Kucherov and signs a three-year bridge deal at a nice raise but still well below his market value with hopes of cashing in massively while still in his prime just as Kucherov did this summer.

The point is: a deal could happen very quickly. It could be announced within minutes of you reading these words. And we might learn there was no bad blood whatsoever between Nylander and the Leafs. Instead of speculating, consider viewing the glass as half full. It very well might be.

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