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Toronto Maple Leafs centre William Nylander celebrates his goal on the Boston Bruins during the second period of a game in Toronto, on April 23, 2018.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

The Maple Leafs' opening night on Wednesday – which played in Toronto like the opening stretch of a Roman triumph – rolled out in just about the best possible way.

The team was good, but not too good. It won, but not easily. There were faults, but the predictable, fixable sort.

“Kind of an ugly win for us,” was Auston Matthews’s judgment as he came off the ice. “I don’t think we played too well.”

The only person who gets to say such a thing is one who has played very, very well. Matthews’s two goals secured his spot as the team’s alpha, for now. John Tavares looked comfortable, the goaltending was solid, the supporting cast made no howling errors. Everything was in its right place.

That’s the good-news story the Leafs want to keep broadcasting for six months – “a promising work in progress.”

Hanging over proceedings was the bad-news story the Leafs need to head off – “a roster too good and, soon enough, too expensive to maintain.”

This one is holdout winger William Nylander’s fault. The Swede may be patient zero, but the doubt he’s created will eventually infect his better peers, Matthews and Mitch Marner.

When Nylander signs a new deal – and unless he’s thinking about giving up hockey and getting a job at Starbucks, Nylander will eventually sign – that doubt isn’t going away. Until every cog in the Leafs’ core is under long-term contract, it will intensify.

(This is the curse of being a good team in Toronto. Toronto can’t just be happy with that. It wants you to guarantee exactly how long you will be good.)

So amidst the froo-fra of beginning “The Greatest Season of All Time” (soon to be trademarked), the Leafs dropped their loose-lips-sink-ships PR approach and began a public campaign.

After four years on the job, team president Brendan Shanahan entered the Pope Francis stage of his executive career – up on the blue-and-white pulpit, delivering homilies about caring, sharing and salary-cap logistics.

Referencing his Detroit glory days, Shanahan said, “We all found a way to fit with each other so that we could keep adding to that group.”

The implication is that if the Leafs’ “young leaders” won’t collectively decide to wedge in together under the cap, they will be the team’s Yoko Ono – the ones who broke up the band.

This warning was aimed past Nylander – he’s already gone rogue – at Matthews and Marner. Are they also going to put their own interests over those of the hive?

On the one hand, you see management’s point. Everyone here is going to get rich. The question is whether it’s going to be “tech-bro rich” or “Christmas morning at Fred Trump Sr.’s house rich." A Leafs dynasty sets up all sorts of ancillary revenue opportunities for every constituent member, stretching out for decades.

No one’s trying to rob anyone here. Shanahan is asking a few very wealthy children to control their appetites now in the interest of enjoying a dessert that won’t be served for years. His life is proof the gamble pays off.

On the other hand, you can see it from Nylander’s perspective. He’s 22. At best, his hockey-playing window is open for another 15 years. At worst, he trips over a barbell and it closes today. It’s in his interest to maximize his earnings now, when he can still lock them in.

The people preaching one-for-all and all-for-one at Nylander ought to remember that the Three Musketeers were 17th-century French security guards who all made the same subsistence wage.

They might not have been so selfless if Porthos found out Aramis was getting 2-million francs more than the rest of the boys.

Nylander’s father, Michael, was a journeyman who played for a long time. He made a lot more than you or me, but less than many of his teammates (including, briefly, Shanahan).

Through his career, Nylander the elder was injured, sidelined, demoted, traded around like a commodity and cast off several times – the usual life cycle of a jobbing pro.

Nylander the younger is still in Sweden, working out by himself. Although he is losing the cost of an SUV every day, he seems no closer to bending.

“I have to think long term,” he told newspaper Aftonbladet on Thursday. “It’s my own future.”

That sounds like Nylander’s voice channelling his father’s experience.

Everyone in this has their own interests, and though those may be in opposition, they’re all rational. Everyone’s got a point.

Which ought to make it easier to see the reasonable end of this – Nylander signs for less than he’d hoped, but a little more than the Leafs offered. Blushes are spared all around.

He asks for and receives assurance that, having now signed an attractive deal, he will not be flipped to another club to fill an area of more pressing need.

Those assurances are meaningless, but they allow everyone to kid themselves into thinking this is a family business rather than what it is – a cattle auction.

The other route is an unequal death spiral. Nylander digs in. The Leafs do as well.

When the first shine of the season wears off, the Nylander saga begins to suck up all the air in the room. In just about any other town on any other team, people would get bored of talking about it. But this one? That dog will hunt. For months.

Nylander forfeits a bunch of money, but it costs the Leafs organization something more valuable – the appearance of competence. If the club can’t control Player No. 3, how’s it going to go with No. 1 and No. 2? If Nylander comes out on top, the Matthews/Marner negotiations go from pro forma celebrations to backroom knife fights. That may have already happened.

It’s a good example that the advantage in negotiations isn’t being in the right. Everyone here is right.

It’s being the one who believes he has less to lose.

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