There is no road map for Kyle Dubas, no general manager’s GPS to carry him through a predicament no National Hockey League team has ever faced before.
He and his staff are on their own, navigating through this rare and unique situation with this rare and unique Maple Leafs array of talent, paddling their way through salary-cap hell on the way to a possible championship run.
The complicated signing and lengthy last-minute negotiation with William Nylander is now over. Now more complications are upon general manager Dubas and his able assistants Brandon Pridham and Laurence Gilman.
The next real deadline of significance isn’t necessarily the trade deadline in February. The next deadline of consequence is the potentially franchise-changing date of July 1.
Dubas must have Auston Matthews signed by then. He must have Mitch Marner signed by that date. He can’t afford to let his two most prized talents be available in free agency on July 1, even if that free agency is restricted.
He can’t do it for two reasons: He can’t afford to lose either one, even if the compensation would be somewhat worthwhile years from now. And he can’t afford to lose them temporarily, then have to match the signings, for the cost of matching would throw his already messy salary-cap balance into more disarray than it already is.