Although I am a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I was somewhat relieved when they were eliminated from Stanley Cup competition last night by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking, but wait just a minute! Before I am accused of being disloyal, let me explain my position.
As every Leaf supporter knows, the Blue and White have a notorious 53-year record of futility. They have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967. They are the butt of countless jokes. If they had won this year, their victory would have been tainted. An asterisk wold be forever beside the team's name as the winner of the "COVID Cup."
This year's Stanley Cup playoffs are surreal. We haven't seen anything like this before, and I hope we won't see anything like it again. The tournament is being played in August in the midst of a wretched pandemic. There are no fans in the arena and the players have not the usual amount of training needed after a long layoff. The playoff format is complicated.
Once again, it's "wait 'til next year" for Leaf fans. The team has some great talent in players such as Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and John Tavares. I am not as impressed with William Nylander. So far, he has not earned his hefty salary. Perhaps the Leafs should have let him sit out the whole 2018-2019 season rather than make a last minute deal with him. At any rate, I think the Leafs have invested too much money in those four players, to the detriment of the rest of the lineup. If I could remove one of those players from the payroll, it would be Nylander. If they traded Nylander at some time in the near future, they would free up a lot of cap money to build a more well-rounded team. In December of 2018, William Nylander signed a 6-year $45 million deal He received a ten-team modified no-trade clause in the final year of his contract. So, he can be traded at the right time and in the right circumstances.
Sure, there would be a certain risk in trading Nylander. He may become a star for some other team. However, something is lacking in the Toronto Maple Leafs as they are currently constituted. They will not win unless the dynamics are changed.