There is certainly no question that for many months now, not only have the fans been anticipating the return of William Nylander, but the team has been as well with players constantly calling to check in with him back home as well head coach Mike Babcock and general manager Kyle Dubas.
Furthermore, the two sides have been in a position of standoff since the beginning of the summer and have not since seen any signs of potential progress as negotiations led into the start of the regular season which leads us to where we are today at the contract signing deadline. Of course this also happens to fall not only on the first of December, but with just hours to go prior to puck drop against the Wild in St. Paul, Minnesota as well.
Now, with the 2018-19 regular season in full swing in just it’s second full month of play, perhaps it only made so much sense for an agreement of this magnitude to take place just a month before not only the Christmas holidays but to open the new year as well.
This being said, after an extended wait which has caused plenty of rumours and speculation across the league and throughout Canada, TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger reported on Saturday evening that he was told Nylander would be staying in Toronto which he followed up in saying that a six-year deal had been reached between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nylander’s representative Lewis Gross.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.ca was next to jump in immediately following the report where he added on the fact of which while the two sides were still in the finalization stage of the contract, it was indeed true that a six-year deal had been agreed upon with the Leafs while he also noted that the AAV would be just a shade under $7 million over the lifetime of the new contract.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca then added fuel to the fire with the terms of the agreement where he stated that Nylander would in fact be earning an annual average value of $6.9 million over the six years that was agreed upon to bring him back to NHL action on North American ice. He also mentioned that the deal is convoluted because of the cap, however, $6.9 was the key figure at hand to officially complete the new deal.
Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com was next with further details where he mentioned the fact of which the agreement was still subject to approval from the league offices. He also added on that the extension has a current season average annual value (AAV) of $10.2M and an out-year (years 2-6) AAV of $6.9M.
This was then followed by a club announcement from the Toronto Maple Leafs Public Relations Department who officially confirmed the transaction while re-iterating the final details as they were continuing to rise upwards towards the surface.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.ca then jumped in once again, noting the fact of which the agreement was field at 4:55pmET, just five minutes before the deadline for a deal to be put into place. This then brought Nick Kypreos in to add more knowledge to the fun where he noted that William Nylander will earn a total base salary of $7.5 million over six years.
As Kypreos would go on to mention, this would work out to about $6.98 in AAV with the in season signing now officially put into place which means that it would also include a signing bonus valued at $24.5 million.
TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie was next to step in where he reported that the contract’s first year is pro rated with $10 million salary ($6.77 million) to go alongside a full $2 million signing bonus. He would then add on that the net number would make for $8.77 million to go alongside the AAV valued at $10.2 million.
In looking at the out years of the contract, McKenzie would add on that the AAV is valued at $6.996M. In year two, his base salary stands at $700K to go alongside a signing bonus of $8.3 million. As for remaining years, Nylander is set to earn $2.5 million in base salary plus an additional $3.5 million with the signing bonus included.
In sum up, McKenzie would go on to say that Nylander is receiving $41.77 million over the next six years which averages out to $6.96 million per year. In looking at the new contract in a year-to-year breakdown, McKenzie mentions that Nylander’s earnings would look as displayed in the chart down below:
Year 1: $6.77M plus a full $2M SB ($8.77M)
Year 2: $9M (17.77M)
Years 3-6: $24M ($41.77M)
Chris Johnston then stepped in with greater details on his travel plans, adding on the fact of which Nylander will be on a plane from Stockholm to Toronto that leaves in just over 10 hours time.
As noted by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic Toronto, the Leafs and Nylander’s camp were said to be standing at 6 x 6 back in October and desperately didn’t want to go above $6.5 for the longest time, but now it can viewed as if the ordeal was well worth it financially for Nylander to sit out and wait.
As noted by TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie, the contract includes a ten team no trade clause in the final year of the deal while he also adds on that Nylander wasn’t eligible for any no trade clause in the deal’s first five years.
In knowing that Nylander is now officially returning to Toronto, James Mirtle of The Athletic Toronto projects that he will likely be playing alongside Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen on the front line in front of Zach Hyman and Mitch Marner as well as John Tavares.
This all being said, the team will have to make room on the roster once Nylander lands in Toronto, and therefore, we could be seeing Justin Holl placed on waivers after being benched for 25 games as a healthy scratch for the team. Other potential options could include Fred Gauthier and Martin Marincin as well. Something will have to give for Nylander to be activated for regular season play as he could return as soon as Tuesday when the Leafs travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres at KeyBank Arena.
From the time the standout started up until the deadline on Saturday evening, Emily Sadler of Sportsnet.ca notes that Nylander had made it known he wanted to sign a long-term deal to stay in Toronto, but overall the two sides have been pretty quiet about negotiations over the past few months.
Furthermore, if you take a look back towards the beginning of the summer, general manager Kyle Dubas was asked if he could keep his powerful young core — Matthews, Nylander and Mitch Marner — together along with the newly signed prized free agent John Tavares. His response at the time was, “We can, and we will.”
In speaking with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek on the 31 Thoughts podcast back in early July, Dubas said to them in a statement, “We’ll be very patient. I always think that when a player is going to make a commitment of any length, particularly when they’re signing up long-term, that we need to sit with the player and make sure that the player knows where we’re going as a program and what our vision and our plans are so those are discussions that I’ll have with each of the individual players that are due extensions here or are due contracts for next season.”
During his time off, Nylander has been playing with teams back in Europe and was at one point skating with an Austrian top-tier team to stay in hockey shape. Nylander, 22, is a crucial aspect in the Maple Leafs’ rebuild and has an excellent chemistry on ice alongside teammate Auston Matthews while assisting the young squad emerge as a top contender in the league.
Since coming up with the Maple Leafs back at the beginning of the season, Nylander has put together a pair of 61-point seasons which he has worked towards adding on for with the time he has spent in Europe over the course of the contract stalemate now at settlement.
It’s worth noting the fact of which out of all three players eligible to sign at the time, Nylander was the highest priority as he was the only one without contract for the 2018-19 season. Both Matthews and Marner are each in the final year of their respective entry-level deals and therefore will hit restricted free agency come July of 2019.
Nylander was also viewed as the most intriguing of the three and that is not just because of the months-long stalemate between his camp and the team throughout the course of these negotiations. It’s also worth making mention of the fact of which while cap space isn’t yet an issue for the Maple Leafs organization, this deal is sure to have a heavy impact on the club with the list of teammates who follow him to sign extensions for the future whether they be long-term deals or not as they emerge from their roster rebuild seeking greater success to come ahead.
As noted by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic Toronto, Nylander’s contract includes a total of just under $25 million in signing bonus money. In looking at Nylander now in greater depths more involved on the playing portion side of things, the 22-year-old was originally selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round (8th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
In taking a look at his performance for the 2017-2018 regular season, Nylander, a native of Calgary, Alberta, scored 20 goals to go alongside 41 assists, making for 61 points registered in a total of 82 games played, making for his second full season of play in the National Hockey League. Nylander also added 10 penalty minutes to his resume for the entirety of the season.
A short time after the negotiations reached a conclusion and the paperwork was drawn up to officially complete it, Kyle Dubas spoke with reporters at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul where he said in a statement, “I just think that in the end we found a way. We have a cap situation which allowed us to structure it this year the way that we did, and be able to compromise with William on what they wanted, and also for us in (years two to six) of being at a number … for us to become a consistent team that’s in the hunt and contending year-in and year-out. We could certainly fit that in and have him be a part of this for a long time, especially with the others on the horizon. So that was the way that we approached it, and we didn’t really stray from that.”
With Matthews and Marner soon to follow in similar fashion, Dubas said the following when asked how both conversations may just be handled, “That’s our full plan, to have everybody available for the first day of training camp. We have shown that when it comes to making sure everything fits our economics, we’ll go to whatever length we have to. But our goal is to have everybody settled as soon as they can be. That will allow us to have the best plan for the remainder of the year.”
As noted by Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star, the Leafs were third in the league in goals per game before bringing back Nylander as well as Matthews who just returned on Wednesday on home ice against the Sharks. He also goes on to note that Nylander is set to be paid 42 per cent of the contract in the first eleven months of the deal.
Nylander spoke with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet back in early October about what this whole process has been like and where his hopes for it were and to that regard, he told them in a statement, “I need to look out for myself and make the decisions me and my agent believe are the correct ones. I need to think long-term. It’s my future we’re talking about here.”
As noted Doug Harrison of the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, it is believed the Maple Leafs were willing to let it pass rather than meet the Nylander’s reported demand of a long-term deal with an annual average value in the range of $8 million as the signing deadline approached.
The Toronto Maple Leafs currently hold steady with an impressive record of 18-8-0 which as speculated by many perhaps has something to do with the emergence of 22-year-old winger Kasperi Kapanen, the former fourth-liner who has been replacing William Nylander on the right side the last two months in light of his absence.
When Kapanen was asked for his take on the situation, he said to the local media at Scotiabank Arena back in October, “Everyone wants Willie to be here. He’s a big part of the team. He brings a lot of energy and a lot of offence to our team.”
Kapanen and Nylander have been known to be best friends and roommates since joining the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate, during the 2015-2016 regular season.
Head coach Mike Babcock spoke about the stalemate earlier this week where he said in a statement, “We think Willy’s going to be here, and we think Willy’s going to be here for a long time. We think he’s going to be a career Leaf. That’s what we think. … That’s what we believe.”
Amongst Nylander’s many skills and talents that he brings to the table, scoring is higher up on his resume which is certainly missed with the Leafs and so in recent weeks, Mike Babcock has watched as others have stepped up to fill the scoring void. This mainly consists of names such as Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau as well as Andreas Johansson. Of course they come after that of John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews who for the most part have handled the bulk of scoring early on.
In looking further at the front office perspective of the return of William Nylander, Kyle Dubas stated several weeks ago that he wasn’t particularly worried about getting him back and then insisted he wasn’t shopping the talented Swede to any of the league’s other 30 teams.
Of course with that being said, you would have to keep in mind the fact of which in recent weeks, the Carolina Hurricanes have been linked to trade rumours surrounding the young centreman while in past months he has also been linked to the Philadelphia Flyers as well.
Anyways, in digression from that, a similar thing happened to Nazem Kadri back in September of 2013 when he was left waiting until the eve of Maple Leafs training camp before signing his two-year, $5.8-million bridge deal which would lead to an 18-goal season where he also registered 44 points, though this happened in a season that was shortened due to the lockout.
In a statement from Kadri in speaking about the patience that Nylander has, he told Sportsnet back in September, “It’s a little bit stressful. It’s not the easiest thing to go through. [Nylander] is a great player, he’s a great teammate and we love to have him around.”
Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan released a statement back in early October where he said that the team’s young players should consider accepting less money in order to provide the best chance for the franchise to win its first Stanley Cup since 1967.
In taking a look now at the entirety of Nylander’s NHL career as a whole thus far in, he has scored 48 goals to go alongside 87 points, making for a total of 135 points registered in 185 NHL regular-season games played.
At this time, Nylander is coming off back-to-back 61-point seasons, including a 2017-18 campaign that saw him score 20 goals to go alongside 41 assists. He also added 49 points at even strength while the team high stood at 34.
When Nylander rejoins the Maple Leafs roster this coming week, the expectation is that he will undoubtedly bring additional offensive fire power to Mike Babcock’s starting formation which will help turn the Maple Leafs into an even scarier opponent for teams around the league.
While Nylander has been in negotiations to return, he was compared by many to Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers ($6 million AAV) as well as Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak ($6.7 million) and certainly has it in him to overtake both with his performance.
Now with Nylander back in the everyday starting lineup, there are one of three situations that could find set him up for future success. One of those would be placing him alongside Patrick Marleau or John Tavares while two could be putting him on the top line with Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau. This one has even been discussed a time or two with head coach Mike Babcock. The third as mentioned above projects him to be placed alongside Auston Matthews as well as 22-year-old forward Kasperi Kapanen.
Speaking of Auston Matthews, himself and Mitchell Marner could find themselves in the same boat come July when both of their entry-level contracts are dually set to expire, however, both have said since that they’re talking with the Leafs about new deals.
While both at this time are labeled as pending RFA’s, Kyle Dubas has made it clear they, along with Nylander, would spend the prime years of their respective NHL careers with the Maple Leafs in Toronto, no matter what it is that comes with the terms of their individual contracts.
Furthermore, several reports have gone so far to indicate that Matthews could be looking for something in the neighbourhood of $12.5 million per year, similar to what Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is currently making.
As for the future of right-winger Mitch Marner, it’s been noted that his price range could be somewhere within the $10-million range, similar to what Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel is currently making.
Marner at this time happens to be the Leafs’ top point-getter at this particular point in time after having registered 38 through a total of 27 games played. If you compare him to Eichel point wise and the AAV that he is earning, the 22-year-old centreman owns 32 points registered through a total of 27 games played as well up to this point.
After the Leafs brought in centreman John Tavares on a seven-year contract worth $77 million over the summer, they have certainly proven that they are capable of making great things happen and with Nylander now locked up on a long-term deal for the foreseeable future, it certainly helps to set them up for next 100 years of Maple Leafs hockey at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.