Maple Leafs Need to Change Their Pattern and It Starts With Sandin

Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans have been generally critical of what they see as their team’s – specifically general manager Kyle Dubas’ – five-step process towards doom and destruction. 

First, the organization has the propensity of liking its own players too much. 

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Second, the organization desires to keep players it’s developed within the organization. 

Third, the organization tends to sign these players to contracts above market value. 

Fourth, these too-high contracts add up to squeeze the organization’s stretched salary-cap limits. 

Fifth, the organization finds itself trying to cover gaping holes with band-aids. In other words, the organization is forced to react rather than proactively follow its logical plan for roster-building. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Rasmus Sandin Has Little Choice But to Become a Star

In these steps, I’m all over points one and two. I like players in the organization and I’d love to keep them in the organization. However, I’m coming around to believing that the fans are right. And, like it or not, if they are, there’s only one choice insofar as I can see it. It’s time for the Maple Leafs to trade Rasmus Sandin

If Sandin Negotiations Are Getting Tricky, Time to End Them

In his 32 Thoughts column over the weekend, Elliotte Friedman noted that he’d heard that coming to some agreement with Sandin has been tough for the Maple Leafs. However, Friedman didn’t know much more than he’d heard “this is a trickier situation than the Maple Leafs hoped, or wanted.” 

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There seems to be a formula that’s used to bring most young prospects along through the ranks in the NHL. It’s a pretty simple three-step process. Step one would be a three-or-four year entry-level contract. Step two would be a one-or-two-year bridge deal while you prove yourself a bit more in your early 20s. Finally, step three would be a longer-term contact once a player’s longer-term value becomes more settled. That makes sense to me and seems (mostly) fair.

Timothy Liljegren Followed These Rules, Why Not Sandin?

In fact, that’s exactly how Timothy Liljegren (Sandin’s sometimes defensive partner) played it. Last week it was announced that Liljegren had signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract extension

Everyone sort of expected that Sadin would soon follow suit. Obviously, that’s not going to be the case. In fact, projected Sandin’s next contract to be at $1.6 million per year, which is a bit of a bump on Liljegren’s $1.4 per year. Both were expected to be two-year contracts. Thus far, no Sandin signing.

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Two days ago, I reported that Sandin had made Frank Seravalli’s list of offer-sheet candidates at number 3. Maybe I’m not the only one who reads. In addition, who knows the internal dynamics that are backstories to decisions such as these? 

For example, I’m convinced that after Ilya Mikheyev asked for a trade out of Toronto before the 2021-22 season, there was no way he was going to re-sign with the Maple Leafs. When The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Mikheyev’s agent Dan Milstein had told him the Maple Leafs were a “world-class organization’’ that had treated his client very well, those comments seemed to answer an unasked question about why Mikheyev didn’t want to re-sign with the team. Probably not purposely disingenuous, just unnecessary if things were going to go well in negotiations. 

It’s Better to Move Sandin Than to Lose Him

If I’m right, could the same thing be happening with Sandin? While the young Swedish defenseman is projected – by many hockey pundits, including myself – as a big part of the team’s future probably even starting this season, he isn’t the biggest issue the team has this offseason. And, even if the team risks losing him, they can’t treat him like he’s the most valuable player they have or the biggest problem they need to solve.

The team needs to settle on a goalie.

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Is Jack Campbell about to leave the Toronto Maple Leafs?
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The question is whether they lose Sandin in a trade or through a renegade offer sheet. A trade would seem preferable to getting a second or a third-round draft choice or being forced to match an offer that’s higher:

Per the NHL, here are this upcoming season’s salary ranges, and what a signing team would have to return back to the Maple Leafs:

  • $1,386,490-$2,100,742, a third-round pick
  • $2,100,743-$4,201,488, a second-round pick
  • $4,201,489-$6,302,230, a first-round pick and a third-round pick 

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I can see another team signing Sandin for somewhere around the $2 – $2.3 million mark. While that’s not out of line for the Maple Leafs to match, they’d have to do some magic to make it happen. In addition, one would think there might be lingering bad feelings if something like this were to happen. I know that the NHL is a “professional” league; but, in my closing on 80 years of life, I have found few things that are simply dollars and cents.

Maybe Sandin Is the Line in the Sand the Maple Leafs Need

The report is that things are “tricky.” Logic suggests that the offers the Maple Leafs have made are not close to acceptable. If they were, both parties would have agreed on something. If Sandin remains unsigned, he’s available to speak with other teams starting on the 12th of July. At that point, things get trickier.

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As readers of my posts know, I’m a big Sandin fan. I think he could have and perhaps should have been brought along more quickly than he has been. I’d love to see him stay with the team. I’d love to see Sandin become part of the team’s future.

There Is a Bottom Line

That said, I don’t think he’s more important than the team. And, on this one, I agree with fans that Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas should not err on the side of liking his organization’s own players too much. 

Related: The Maple Leafs’ Best Defenseman? Rasmus Sandin

The bottom line for Rasmus Sandin? Sign a reasonable contract or we’ll move you – now. Sadly, I think it’s time for the Maple Leafs to trade Sandin.

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