Maple Leafs’ Matthews, Marner & Nylander Contracts Are 3 of NHL’s Best

Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas has been criticized left and right for the contracts he negotiated for William Nylander, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner. However, when these contracts are inspected closely and weighed against the value the Maple Leafs are getting from them, none of these are “bad” contracts. In fact, quite the opposite. We even wonder if Dubas should be declared a genius for those deals.

Why Do Maple Leafs Fans Critique the Contracts?

Maple Leafs’ fans constantly complain about how much of the team’s salary-cap money has been allocated to four of the team’s forwards – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares. 

Auston Matthews Mitch Marner Celebrate Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner Celebrate a Goal
(Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

In truth, there’s little complaint among fans about Matthews contract. In part, it’s because it was done in secret and simply announced during the middle of a regular season when there was on-ice drama to attend to. 

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Mitch Marner’s agent would have none of that secret stuff. Refusing to negotiate during the season, the resulting negotiations were rife with the drama that Matthews avoided. The problem Marner has now is that many Maple Leafs fans never have forgiven the young winger for what they believed was puffery. He suffers for how that contract was negotiated despite his solid play.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Marner Negotiations: Welcome to Uglyville

William Nylander was the first of these three contracts to be done. It dragged on until virtually the last second. After it was signed, Nylander had a downright awful season. It’s taken him a few seasons to earn back some of the trust of many Maple Leafs’ fans. While he’s become a bit of a polarizing player among fans, these days it isn’t so much about the numbers on his contract.

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

John Tavares’ contract is now almost universally seen by Maple Leafs fans as the worst contract of the bunch. At worst, many fans believe his contract started the Maple Leafs’ road trip of difficulties. At best, many fans seem to believe that Tavares is a nice enough guy, was a good hockey player in his day, but his declining skills and no trade clause make his contract an albatross around the organization’s neck.

Kyle Dubas Contracts With Nylander, Matthews, and Marner Border on Genius

There’s a reason that Tavares’ contract seems so bad to most Maple Leafs’ fans. He has what could be called over the NHL’s past a “traditional” contract. Traditionally players get paid for what they’ve accomplished, not for what they might do. 

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Players such as Carey Price (eight years $10.5 million), Drew Doughty (eight years $11 million), Erik Karlsson (eight years $11.5 million), and the Maple Leafs’ own John Tavares (seven years $11 million) to name a few, all got paid for what they had previously accomplished, not for what they might accomplish during the duration of their deals. 

John Tavares Toronto Maple Leafs
John Tavares was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs for what he had done, not for what he would do.
(Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the vast majority of cases like the ones we mentioned, the contracts end up being a salary cap nightmare for the teams who signed them. The players inevitably fail to perform to the level they are being paid and the teams end up stuck paying for something the players cannot possibly deliver. 

Dubas’ Contracts Have Avoided the Issue of Declining Value

If we look at the Matthews, Marner, and Nylander contracts and what the team is getting out of those players we see the value they are getting for the money spent is excellent.  

In Nylander’s case, his $6.96 million cap hit ranked 78th in the league. His production of 122 points in the past two seasons ranks him tied for 35th place with Sam Reinhart.

Related: Every NHL Team’s Top Prospect – 2021-22 Midseason Update

Matthews’ cap hit of $11.6 million is the third-highest in the league. His 172 points place him fourth in league scoring with eleven fewer games played than those ahead of him. His 101 goals are the most in the league. On top of that, he was just voted the most valuable player by the hockey writers and the best player in the league by his peers. 

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Marner’s cap hit of $10.9 million is the 7th highest in the league. In the past two seasons, his 164 points are tied for the fifth-most in the NHL with Johnny Gaudreau. With the exception of Matthews, he has between nine and eleven fewer games played than the rest of the top five. Marner has also been voted the best right-winger in the NHL the past two seasons. 

In Fact, These Contracts Are Getting Better – Not Worse

In each season that Nylander, Matthews, and Marner have played they have gotten better. Considering Matthews is just 24, Marner 25, and Nylander 26 there’s no telling how much better those players will get before they hit their peak. 

Nylander’s and Matthews’ contracts run for two more seasons, while Marner’s has three more to go before they expire. It would make sense that the value the Maple Leafs are getting out of each of those deals will continue to grow. 

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews Is Undergoing a Transformation

Meanwhile, all those veteran players who signed the long-term deals after they had reached their peak, will continue to become heavier loads for those teams to carry. 

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]