Like it or not, the William Nylander saga carries on.
The Toronto Maple Leafs forward and the most talked-about restricted free agent in the NHL is still a contract holdout with the club and there is no sign that the two sides are even close to reaching a deal.
The good news is that negotiations are ongoing. To what level those negotiations are taking place is another matter and Toronto is finding themselves in a better position by the day.
That’s because the team is winning and the offensive guns are firing on all cylinders. In other words, the Maple Leafs are proving that they don’t really need Nylander’s talents because they’re making do with what’s on the table.
And when what’s on the table is Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner, and the rest of the gang? That’s not exactly great news for Nylander’s dollar value.
Prior to Saturday’s contest against Washington, which Toronto won by a final score of 4-2, the Maple Leafs were averaging five goals a night. Kasperi Kapanen has taken Nylander’s spot up top with Matthews and all has been well. To say the least.
And with the Matthews contract looming (along with the Marner deal), money is an issue once more. That’s why the Maple Leafs have been trying to push Nylander’s dollar value down. According to Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet, Toronto has offered a four-year deal with a price tag of under $5 million a year.
Nylander wants more money.
Now, there is a deadline here and that’s December 1. If the Maple Leafs can’t sign him by then, he won’t be eligible to play this season.
Talk has turned to two things in particular: offer sheets and trades.
Toronto could use a defenceman and trading Nylander will give them some value. There are some options if we’re just throwing names around. The Edmonton Oilers are struggling and could use a winger for Connor McDavid, for instance, and that could put a trade for Darnell Nurse in the works. Before you write that off, consider that general manager Kyle Dubas drafted Nurse into the OHL.
As for the ever-popular offer sheets, this is more difficult to pull off. For one, there are a number of procedures. While reports have said that offer sheets are in the offing for some teams as negotiating tactics, these things don’t happen often.
The last offer sheet in the NHL was tabled to Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly hit a hitch negotiating his contract with the Avalanche thanks to the 2012-2013 NHL lockout. He signed with a KHL team during the lockout, but was injured in Russia. His KHL contract had an opt-out clause and he used it, returning to North America. The Flames hit him with a two-year offer sheet worth $10 million. He signed, but the Avalanche matched and signed the player.
Once upon a time, offer sheets were frowned upon because of hypothetical “bad blood” between general managers. Modern offer sheets operate under modern compensation values, however, and that’s helped eliminate some of that sentiment.
Now, the problem in crafting an offer sheet for a player like Nylander is that a team would have to give up a lot in compensation – like potentially two to four first round picks, to start with. A team interested in signing Nylander to an offer sheet would have to have the compensation.
There’s also the issue of value, specifically that an offer sheet drives up the market value of a player. Teams would have to table Nylander an offer sheet above what he’s “worth,” which in turn could drive up the value of other RFAs and create a lot of rush-hour traffic.
The bottom line right now is that Toronto has most of the cards. Nylander is no longer worth as much, theoretically at least, because the Maple Leafs don’t need him. The club stated that they aren’t shopping him around and they’ve also said he hasn’t asked for a trade. But who knows? That could change when or if the right deal comes around.
And with offer sheets hypothetically in the picture as well, this saga shows no signs of slowing down.