Insane, I know.
I can only imagine the thoughts of many fans when they read a headline like this: "Let's see what this idiot has to say". It's like you're reading Vice.
But the way I see it, the Leafs' salary structure wasn't so much spoiled by Tavares, since he deserved a payday and he's obviously an elite center. Yet a one-two of Tavares and Matthews, while to the regular observer seems like a lot of goals, to the guy looking at salary structure, isn't such a great plan. That's 22.634M on two players.
Why Matthews over Marner? Simple really - Marner has sentimental ties to the city. Matthews probably likes the city, but I can't imagine he likes it more than Mitch Marner. And it's not always the smartest play to make moves as a GM based on player sentiment, but it's a factor. Parise left New Jersey to be closer to his father. Why did Pronger want to leave Edmonton? Investigate it and it might surprise you. Why did Matthews push for a five year deal in the first place? I don't know that there's any doubt in my mind he's going to strongly consider leaving when this contract is up.
One of the antitheses you'll hear to a move like this is that it immediately closes the Leafs' championship window, but to me, does it? They will probably lose the trade a little - the team that trades the best player in the trade tends to lose it. Tends to - Quebec won the Lindros trade - sort of: the city didn't, but the franchise certainly did.
Trading Matthews will accomplish two things: the first is that the Leafs can change their own salary structure and admit an error. The second is that they can lower the price tag on Mitch Marner and offer him a clean 10M, which he would probably accept since it's more reasonable and won't cause him to be in Matthews' shadow. If he refuses a 10m/y deal, he'll quickly become a bad guy. He's already souring in the minds of many, but his saving grace is that they did give Matthews that prestigious contract.
Dubas will never do this move - he doesn't strike me as the kind of character who will admit fault, passively (by making the deal) or actively by saying it outright. That's not to say it isn't the smart play here.
So let us suppose he does not trade Matthews, and he happens to sign Marner at a contract that will make Marner a bit disgruntled. They have a go at it, and they might make the second or third round one year, but I don't see that they have the shutdown required to win it all. The only team in the last ten years to win the Cup without adequate shutdown is the Pittsburgh Penguins. Good as Tavares and Matthews are, they aren't Crosby and Malkin and Kessel to supplement what gets shutdown on the first two. Matthews only has the elite trait in the goalscoring department, but he's not particularly dominant in terms of being a hockey player to the effect of a player like Patrice Bergeron or Pavel Datsyuk. I'm not even convinced Tavares is that dominant but he has more of a complete game.
They could win the cup, but unless they're gifted with a player coming up from the minors who's one of the best defensive defensemen in the league at a mill a year salary, and I know they have some really good talent in Sandin and Liljegren, it's a big risk.
Their window is also five years, and after that is up, I have very little doubt in my mind that Matthews bolts for a US market. Things might change between now and then, obviously, like that Matthews will have a Players' Tribune article about how much he appreciates Toronto but he gets to go "home" or whatever, but this "hopes" are adding up to the point where not all of them will go realized.
I'll make up some numbers to illustrate the "hope" argument:
They can "hope" Matthews grows to love this city tops (.6 odds at least extending their competitive window), and they can "hope" Marner signs at a reasonable contract (.6 odds, x .6 is .36, or 36%), and they can "hope" they win a championship (.1 odds, which is now 3.6%), and they can "hope" their shutdown improves or that Freddy Andersen can carry a playoff run like Matt Murray (.1 odds, which is now .36%)... that's what I mean by hopes adding up to become less and less likely. (Odds here is represented out of 1, so .8 represents 80%). Keeping Matthews in this hypothetical scenario would give you a 1 in 300~ chance of success at making this team a contender for 10 years.
Now supposing they trade Matthews - and who knows what they would get for him, but let's suppose they completely lost the deal and got only roster players and draft picks that never panned out. They fix their salary structure, they don 't chance losing Matthews for a Players Tribune article about how awesome his time was in Toronto, and the "hopes" to keep Marner have just improved big time. (I just don't see any salary structure that can support three 11+ M/y contracts for a sustainable amount of time and hope to be competitive in the league - it'll be like Chicago after they won the three Cups and having difficulties keeping an intact line-up despite having that fabulous contract for Keith).
Even without Matthews, the Leafs offence is formidable with Barrie and Rielly on the back end (and a slightly higher likelihood of signing Barrie) with Tavares and Marner up front, and good supplementary scoring (Nylander and Kapanen), still.
Now, I finally get to the meat of this - what do you trade him for? Well the market for RFA forwards who probably want to get paid around 8M a year is wide-open right now! There's a ton of a bait out there: yes, unsigned, but they won't make 11.6! None of them are 11.6 range: most of them are 8-9M range, while some of the D available are more the 6-7 range. These guys normally wouldn't be available, but for Auston Matthews for at least 5 years, a lot more guys who were normally untouchable suddenly become quite touchable.
So the positives of the deal:
- They fix their salary structure (Boston has a vastly superior salary structure, giving them a deeper team, if not as offensive)
- They fix their salary
- They become more of a balanced team, which increase their chances of playoff success
- They increase their longevity
- Might scratch their ticket sales (but they're in a market which won't take many dings)
- Their secondary scoring goes down a little
- They have to endure fan criticism (which, to me, is inevitable at this point, seeing as the Marner situation is going to combust in some way)
Yes, I would trade him in a heartbeat, especially considering what I could get for him at this point to balance this roster, which is heavy on offence but really weak on shutdown.