The Toronto Maple Leafs improved to 2-1-0, following a thrilling 7-6 OT win over the Chicago Blackhawks. However, one leaf wasn’t there to celebrate. William Nylander is still in Sweden as contract negotiations between his camp and the team seem to have met a brick wall, but which side will blink first?
The Swedish winger has come to an end of his ELC finishing with 61 points last season and is now looking to cash in on his hard-work with a long, high dollar contract. Meanwhile on the other side of the fence, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed UFA, John Tavares for $11million for seven years and are weary of the difficulty of staying under the cap limit while signing multiple youngsters coming off of ELCs, most notably Matthews, Marner and the aforementioned Nylander. This differing of interests has brought contract negotiations to a halt.
Both sides are doing what is best for themselves and neither can really be blamed for their actions. However, it is immensely frustrating as a fan of the team and of hockey in general, to see such incredible talent not being utilized and showcased on the biggest stage of all. Both sides have taken a strong stance, so which one is going to give in first?
A few important things to take note of are that Nylander was not eligible to file for arbitration as a player needs to have at least 4 seasons of NHL experience to do so, Nylander only has three. Secondly, he will need to sign before the 1st December if he wishes to play at all this season. Finally, Kyle Dubas has said himself that if Nylander is playing for the Leafs or no one, ie they are not going to be trading him.
William Nylander’s agent started off by asking for what Leon Draisaitl got from the Oilers, namely $8.5 million a year, while the Leafs offered something more in the range of $6.5 million a year. Some fans have been criticising Nylander for holding out over a few million, after all he’ll be making more in one year than I might in the whole of my lifetime, the tweet below is one of many that express this sentiment.
However, he will not be earning that amount forever. Most hockey players retire in their 30’s and so this money they earn has to set themselves and their families up for life. Along with this, a career ending injury can come at any moment and then any future contracts are out of the question, so players need to be safe guarding themselves against such events. On the other hand, he is a hockey player and wants to play, and particularly wants to play with his teammates of three years. It must be hard sitting on his sofa watching the team play without him.
In terms of the Toronto Maple Leaf organisation, William Nylander is a very valuable asset, particular his deadly sniping ability. There were many questions about who would step up in the absence of JVR who signed with the Flyers this offseason. Many assumed that Nylander would be one of them and his skill is definitely missed. However, I do not think that the Leafs will give in on this one, he is important but with the signing of John Tavares, they have filled this skill gap and as long as they have a winning record, the pressure is off the team to get Nylander back on the ice. Along with the short term success of the team, Dubas most certainly has his eyes on the long term goal of winning the Cup. Among others, Mathews’ and Marner’s contracts are coming up and the team will need to be securing as cap friendly deals as possible to keep the team competitive. If they give in on this one, they will have set a precedent and weakened their negotiations for players to come.
There are many many factors that come into this complex situation but it is because of this final point that I suspect that Nylander will budge first. He is important to the team but no one player is more important than the team as a whole and the Leafs can’t afford to open the door for all their young players to get top dollar. I do believe that a deal will be struck, no matter what, Nylander is a hockey player and wants to play in the best league in the world. He will sign before the 1st December deadline, the questions remaining are, how close will they go to this date before coming to an agreement and how will the team fair in the meantime?