It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs have a three- headed offensive behemoth with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. While they are a major offensive juggernaut with those three, current restricted free- agent, William Nylander, would love to be a part of this offensive dynamo sooner rather than later.
There’s no doubt that Nylander is an extremely gifted player and that his agent wants him to get a fair deal out of this negotiation process. Since coming into the league, Nylander has put up 135 points in 185 games played. That is good for a 0.73 points per game average, ranking him 59th overall in that category since 2015/16 among players who have played more than 150 games.
Let’s start by looking at a list of comparable contracts with point totals that players at his position had at the end of the entry- level contract.
|Player||Points at the end of Entry- Level Contract (with year)||New Contract Signed|
|Johnny Gaudreau||78 points (2015/16)||6 yrs/ $40.5M (AAV $6.75M)|
|David Pastrnak||70 points (2016/17)||6 yrs/ $40M (AAV $6.66M)|
|Nikolaj Ehlers||60 points (2017/18)||7 yrs/ $42M (AAV $6M) *signed during last year of ELC*|
|Filip Forsberg||64 points (2015/16)||6 yrs/ $36 mil (AAV $6M)|
At the end of his entry- level contract year, Nylander tallied 61 points, one point more than Nikolaj Ehlers and three less than Filip Forsberg. Both wingers are extremely talented and are capable of producing big time points. The average annual value of each player falls between 6 and $6.8 million.
By looking at the comparable list above, the Leafs are in the right to offer $6.5 million as they deem it to be fair, based on Nylander’s consistent production the last two years. This was the case for Pastrnak, Gaudreau, Ehlers and Forsberg, which led them to signing the deals they got. In hindsight, it shouldn’t be an issue for Nylander to sign a contract similar to these players.
At the start of training camp, it was reported that Nylander is asking for $8 million, while the Leafs have offered $6.5 million, a fair value. That is a pretty big gap between what the player wants and what the team wants. Nylander has proven he can score, but the Leafs want to see more before they commit to that high of a salary.
It may be a bit of stretch for Nylander to sign for $8+ million. It’s extremely rare for a player to sign a long-term deal with that amount when their entry-level contract is up, unless you’re an elite level talent. The only players that come to mind that signed that amount after their ELC are Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Leon Draisaitl. All these players have proved their worth. Nylander, not so much.
General Manager, Kyle Dubas has stated that he wants his team to win as oppose to making record-breaking deals.
“If we want to sustain success here we can’t be setting any marketplace records,” Dubas said in an article by the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran. “Sometimes the players might not like it very much, but I’m sure they’d rather win than be on a team that can’t.”
It’s clear that Dubas is standing his ground; from the moment the off-season began up until this point. He’s valuing more on winning than he is on just appeasing the players. He wants things done effectively so that the team can continue to have success for years. Nylander missed all of the pre-season and the first game of the regular season and now, the time is ticking as he starts to miss games and leverage in this stalemate.
For the month of September to the drop of the puck to start the regular season, Leafs Nation has been in a frenzy where they want one of the core pieces signed at a time where the level of enthusiasm and hope is at an all time high.
Just before puck drop against the Montreal Canadiens, team president Brendan Shanahan came out with an interesting quote, which was subtly referencing the Nylander situation.
Here is the full quote from Jonas Siegel:
Interesting response today from Brendan Shanahan when asked about William Nylander’s contract negotiations: pic.twitter.com/d8VuB8tnES
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) October 3, 2018
On one hand I understand where Shanahan is coming from. It’s reasonable for management to think more about championships and wanting their players to take a “hometown discount” because that is what they, and the athletes, strive for. They want to have success and they want to be the best. But when it comes to winning it shouldn’t be about which players are making the most money. It should be about the team and everyone on it. It should be about the fun times you shared and moments you created as a team that everyone will look at fondly, from your job on the ice, to the fans in the crowds. You’re creating memories for everyone to enjoy. To hold out for more money, in any sport, may seem a bit selfish.
On the other hand, anything can happen in pro sports and your career can be in jeopardy. You can be a fantastic player or one of the best players in the world and then one injury can ruin it all. You want to protect yourself and everything you’ve worked for your whole life to make it as a professional athlete. You rely on your skill and physical ability to this point and you want to be paid fairly for that.
It’s the same when working a normal nine to five job. You want to paid fairly based on your skills, credentials and work ethic because you want to show your boss(es) that you’re one of the best employees. Nylander is right for doing that and trying to maximize his worth, whether you agree or disagree with his request. Early Thursday, Nylander came out saying that he needs to think about himself long-term, like any athlete should.
“It’s a lot of money, but in the end I must look to what is right for me and what me and my agent think is right,” Nylander told Swedish news outlet Aftonbladet. “Especially if it’s a multiple year thing. I have to think long term. It’s my own future.
“I want to play, but the situation is what it is.”
There’s no doubt that any player in Nylander’s situation would want nothing more than to sign a deal and get back to playing and winning with his teammates as soon as possible. But the sports business side of things is another world. And that’s what sports is, a business. The agent wants to get the right deal for the player. Then again, we’ve seen agents fail during a process like this.
Just look at Edwin Encarnacion. The Toronto Blue Jays offered him a deal originally at four years at $80 million. His agent wanted to get more money, term and teams involved for Encarnacion. Instead, Edwin was forced to sign a deal with the Cleveland Indians less than what the Jays offered because the market was not at what he expected.
It’s simple as this, the longer that Nylander and his agent holds out to get the deal that he wants, the more money that Nylander loses now that the regular season is under way. The contract that he wanted is now slowly diminishing every passing day.
That’s a lot of money for Nylander to be losing the more he waits.
For the Leafs though, it might be good for them during this process. If Nylander continues to hold out, from now, to next week, to November, the money that his agent is asking for decreases every day. Now that the regular season has started, their leverage in on-going discussions is decreasing and their asking price will decrease, forcing Nylander to sign the Leafs with their original offer.
Panic begins to ensue when December 1st comes around, which is the deadline for Nylander to sign a deal. If at any point he still isn’t signed before then, the Leafs might have no choice but to contemplate trading him if things get absolute dire. Even though Dubas has stated that trading Nylander is out of the question, if it comes close to that time, there might be no choice but to go down that road.
If the Leafs were to lose Nylander in any way, you can rest assure that things could go over board very fast. But, anything can happen. All it takes is just one phone call. There are many ways this stalemate can end. But, for Dubas and Leafs Nation, let’s just hope it’s positive.