Many Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans are in full panic mode over the lack of progress in the negotiations between Rasmus Sandin, his agent Lewis Gross, and the Maple Leafs’ General Manager Kyle Dubas.
Both Sides Firing Cannons Over the Bows
Yesterday, Sandin’s agent Gross dropped a bit of a bomb in an interview with the Toronto media. The exact message was that nothing has happened in negotiations between him and Dubas. The negotiations were going nowhere.
Dubas tweeted a quick response. The gist of it was that these negotiations were “private.” Furthermore, Dubas hinted that using the media as a negotiating tool was not going to be an effective ploy.
Dubas’ ire that Lewis went public is no surprise. Nor is it a surprise that Gross used the media to make a point. In short, nothing that’s happened should be a surprise to anyone on the outside looking in.
Gross did the same thing during the prolonged negotiations over William Nylander’s contract. Then, Mitch Marner’s agent Darren Ferris also made public what was going on between him and Dubas at the time they were negotiating Marner’s new deal.
Mad Magazine, Alfred E. Neuman, and “What, Me Worry?”
Yesterday Mad Magazine celebrated its 70th birthday (August 18, 1952). Pulling out an iconic phrase from Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman suggests “What, Me Worry?” Given all this drama, is there a reason for Maple Leafs’ fans to worry? Is there a reason to panic?
In short, we don’t think there’s any reason to worry yet. It’s still over three weeks away from the start of training camp and close to two months from the start of the regular season. That is lots of time to get a deal done.
As it is, Dubas needs to do some house cleaning to be able to afford to start the season with Sandin on the roster – even if he signs a Timothy Liljegren-type contract.
In addition, Sandin must know he doesn’t have nearly the same leverage as Nylander did in 2018. While Sandin is a young skilled defenseman, he’s not part of the core of the Maple Leafs. He could become a part of the core, but he’s not there yet.
Sandin also must know that, if it came down to a hold out, Dubas could easily ride it out. He could let Sandin sit for a season. At this point, he has a full complement of left-side defensemen in Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and Mark Giordano.
At the least, both sides know where the other side stands, and what their initial offers are.
Returning to the Marner Negotiations
Getting back to Marner’s contract talks, despite all of the vitriol surrounding the negotiations he did not miss a single day of training camp. A deal was reached on the eve of the start of camp.
At the very most, we could see a similar thing happening here. Gross could take the negotiations down to the wire; however, ultimately Sandin would likely sign just before the start of camp. We really can’t see Gross advising Sandin to sit out as Nylander did.
What Else Might Happen with Sandin?
Three other scenarios could happen. As we alluded to earlier, Dubas has housecleaning to do. One way or another, he has to make a deal to free up salary-cap space.
Scenario #1 could be a trade including Sandin. We don’t see this as Dubas’ preferred option. We’re pretty sure he would rather keep Sandin in the fold.
Scenario #2 is that another NHL team presents Sandin with an offer sheet. As there have been no rumors or even the slightest murmur of an offer sheet in the wind, we don’t see that as being likely. Dubas would have to match it if one were presented or let Sandin walk.
Scenario #3 would be for Dubas to move a defenseman, such as Muzzin, to make room for Sandin on the roster. From the rumors we’ve heard, Sandin’s hesitation to sign a new deal has as much to do with ice time as it does money. If there were a clear path to a full-time spot on the roster, it would probably go a long way to getting Sandin’s signature on the dotted line.
For Now, It’s Wise to Sit Tight
For now, though, it would seem that we as fans just should be patient. There’s likely to be at least one, and possibly more than one, move to be made by Dubas.
When that move is made, we can see more clearly how that impacts the impasse between the Maple Leafs and Sandin.
[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.]