What better time to catch up on William Nylander’s contract situation than after the No. 88 capped off a trip to his native Sweden in spectacular fashion on Sunday?
Some players carry the weight of their unrestricted free agency contract year and let it affect their performance. It’s clear that Nylander is not one of those players. He is in full swing, playing as if he is not at all affected by what is at stake this season.
As I talked about on TSN’s Insider Trading on Thursday, it’s been very quiet on the Nylander contract front, and that’s by design. Both sides in that negotiation want to keep a tight rein on things and have mutually agreed to do so, and that’s what they’ve done so far.
But Leafs fans shouldn’t mistake that silence for a warning sign. As far as the talks themselves are concerned, nothing has been derailed. My understanding is that dialogue is ongoing and both sides remain committed to resolving it between now and July 1.
If either party was frustrated, we might see more leaks and messaging, but that’s not happening so far.
However, it’s obviously a tough deal to make, for all the obvious reasons, as the 27-year-old Nylander continues to play spectacularly (one point behind the league’s scoring leader, with 27 points through Sunday), adding to the his cap clout and the Leafs still have a salary cap to navigate.
Many rival front offices are curious to see where this extension lands, if the Leafs can pull it off, in part because Toronto already has Auston Matthews at $13.25 million per year starting next season, plus one more season each at 2024. 25 for John Tavares with 11 million dollars and Mitch Marner with 10.9 million dollars. And obviously, Toronto also needs to plan for a Marner extension ahead of the 2025-26 season.
So I reached out to team executives at rival NHL front offices and asked them a simple question: What do you think would be a fair contract extension for Nylander?
Here are their responses, via text message, anonymously, of course, since they cannot comment publicly on contract negotiations of players from other organizations:
Note: Some answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Team Executive No. 1
“This is a very similar situation to Boston with (David) Pastrnak. Pastrnak signed in March (eight years, $11.25 million) off a season that ended with 61 goals and 113 points. So for me, the fair figure would be eight years above $11 million. I know Matthews has a $13.25 million contract, but only a four-year term. If Nylander lasts eight years for $11.5 million, that’s $92 million guaranteed, of which he would have to get more than $13 million from outside on a 7-year deal to match that money, which is hard to do ”.
Team Executive No. 2
“I don’t see how it’s less than $11 million, given the increasing salary cap and the season he’s having…unless he wants to take a discount to go to a destination of his choosing. That is, with a contract of seven to eight years.”
Team Executive No. 3
“My estimate is it will be around $10.5 million to $11 million, depending on the timeline.”
Team Executive No. 4
“Difficult question, Pierre. What is fair and what will happen are two different things (smiley face emoji). He’ll be 28 years old, has never reached 90 points (although it certainly looks like he will this season) and has never gotten past the second round of the playoffs, and has only been there once. But our system pays by points – rightly or wrongly – and he will have a strong case. Does he help Toronto make more than Matthew Tkachuk at $9.5 million? Probably not. But the limit is rising and Toronto pays a tax premium. $10 million (average annual value), full term. “You probably get more, but fair is arbitrary.”
Team Executive No. 5
“I start by asking what I would get as an open market UFA. I doubt anyone will come up with $11 million for him, but I think he would get $10 million. So if he wants to stay in Toronto, a little discount in his hometown could get him to $9 or $9.5 million.”
Team Executive No. 6
“It depends on your way of thinking. Aho (eight years, $9.75 million AAV) is an easy comparison and can be considered fair. But with Toronto’s food chain, it shouldn’t be too far off from what Marner gets next. That puts it between $10.5 and $11.5 million. He will have influence if he wants to, but if he wanted to keep the core along with 34 and 16, then he shouldn’t be much more than Aho, who is actually at the top of his food chain. But Aho accepted a broader organizational picture and did not have a 34, 16 and 91 who earned more than him. (Nylander) has the right season and a half at the right time. He could cash in in free agency. It depends if he wants. If he re-signs, he could see between 10.5 and 11.5 million.”
Team Executive No. 7
“Nylander is a unique player that you can have many different opinions about. … As talented as he is, some teams wouldn’t make him ‘the guy’ on his team. Many teams see it as the shiny sports car you splurge on when your wallet is in order. That being said, players who produce like him get paid. It only takes one team, so I can see a team moving up into the $10 million range, but it probably won’t be a competitive team. I’m not sure how many teams will look to make that commitment at this point until the cap increases more significantly. I’m not sure how Toronto could fit him in the future and still address their holes, but I always had a feeling he would still be a Leaf.”
Team Executive No. 8
“I suspect somewhere between Gaudreau (seven years, $9.75 million) and Huberdeau (eight years, $10.5 million). It has to be south of Pastrnak, right?
Team Executive No. 9
“I think fair is in the range of $10.5 million to $10.75 million.”
Team Executive No. 10
“I think because of his age… eight years old, between $8.5 million and $9 million, if I’m the Leafs. They can’t waste Matthews’ best moment, which is why they need him. …How many more better years will Nylander give you? Three? So is he getting fair value over the last three years or so? If he wants a deadline, they have to keep the number manageable.”
Team Executive No. 11
“It breaks the game. He probably counts on one hand how many players are as dynamic as him. It can change the game in an instant. At a good age. Not all teams have space, but there are 32 teams. Someone will pay for it. Below Pastrnak but fair. If he wants, he will start with a 10”.
Team Executive No. 12
“Eight years and $11.5 million is fair. He plays more than Pastrnak. If you look at the internal structure, he should earn more than Marner and Tavares. But it will be eight years, 12 or 12.25 million dollars, I guess.”
The fascinating thing about this exercise is that there are a lot of smart front office people here with different points of view, ranging from a low of $9 million AAV on one case to $12.25 million AAV on the other extreme. What’s also interesting is that everyone who responded has assumed it will be a max-term deal if he re-signs in Toronto, and I’m not sure anyone should be 100 percent assuming that. Neither side has turned around. Matthews, after all, did not sign a maximum-term contract.
That said, the carrot the Leafs have is the total dollars over eight years versus going to market and getting a seven-year max, as the team’s No. 1 executive noted. Mind you, Tkachuk fixed that by signing and trading when he was leaving Calgary for the Florida Panthers to get his maximum eight-year contract. So there is always that possibility.
But back to what we do know: Nylander has expressed his desire to stay in Toronto. So I see this eventually being done with Toronto. However, I don’t see a maximum term deal that doesn’t have a double-digit AAV. Nylander has risen to another level in his game at the absolutely perfect time in his career.
However, if he also wants to win a championship in Toronto, it will also be important to find a number that works for the Leafs on some level.
(Photo: Nick Turchiaro / USA Today)