Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you know that the situation between the Toronto Maple Leafs and forward William Nylander isn’t good.
Sure, the Leafs managed to squeak out a win in their opener against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday. And sure, the stars looked good. John Tavares and Auston Matthews did the trick and popped the puck in the net and all seemed relatively well.
But Nylander was off in Sweden, taking a skate at Lidingö Arena in Stockholm. After doing a few rounds with unsigned pro Johan Lorraine, Toronto’s restricted free agent took a few questions from Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
And the news? None.
“Right now, I do not know more than all the rest of you,” Nylander said. “I have not received any messages and have no contact with Toronto. It’s my agent who takes care of everything.”
That’s pretty standard hockey talk. Ask Matthews, as he gave nearly the same answer when asked about Brendan Shanahan’s talking point about “taking less” to ensure a winning team can stick together.
That’s Toronto’s selling feature right now.
They’re up against it, moneywise, and they have to get key players inked in order to maintain the core they have. Matthews and Mitch Marner are among the RFAs slated for next summer, so the dialogue has to start now and the Maple Leafs are hoping to sell the sizzle after shelling out for Tavares.
And make no mistake about it, Tavares took less money to be in the Six. They’re hoping Matthews and Marner will do the same, even as they’re eyeballing their first big league paydays. There are other RFAs, like Kasperi Kapanen and Igor Ozhiganov, but the most pressing concerns are apparent.
That’s why general manager Kyle Dubas and the front office are trying to set the tone with Nylander. They’re sticking to their guns and he, through his agent, is doing likewise.
The stalemate will have to break open by December and that’s when things could really hit the fan. Dubas has expressed no desire to trade Nylander, but he may have to do just that if nothing happens on the contract front. The last reported gulf between player and team was roughly $2 million a season.
The expected deal, if it goes down, will be about six to eight years in length. And right now, Nylander is losing about $30,000 a day. He’s also losing potential game shape, which may be a factor if and when contract talks get cooking again.
What will break this stalemate? Who knows. Right now, you have to hope Nylander’s agent is doing right by his client. It may be a fool’s errand to suggest the 22-year-old holds all the cards when his offensive ceiling is still a mystery. And that, along with the waiting game, may not work in Nylander’s favour at all.