Home sport The Maple Leafs case that allowed William Nylander to terminate his contract

The Maple Leafs case that allowed William Nylander to terminate his contract

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It happens regularly in the NHL: Rival teams allow star players to play out their contracts.

Should the Maple Leafs consider doing the same with William Nylander if they can’t agree on an extension before the start of the 2023-24 season?

It’s easy to think that Leafs general manager Brad Treliving has only two options with Nylander this summer: sign him or trade him. But there is a third method usually chosen by Stanley Cup prospects, in the absence of a contract extension, in such cases. They keep the star and try to compete for the trophy and maybe (hopefully) sign this player later.

The impasse in extension talks last summer, for example, didn’t force the Bruins to deal with David Pasternak.

Pasternak was coming off a 2021-22 season in which he scored 40 goals and 77 points in 72 games. He was entering the final year of what turned out to be his second price-cutting deal — a six-year deal with a $6.66 million cap — and it was clear he was looking for a big raise. (Sound familiar?)

Training camp has started and it’s still not accepted.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said he wanted to make Pastrnak a “Bruin for life”.

“At the end of the day, you have to find common ground, the player has to be happy, and we’ll try to do that,” Sweeney said last September.

It took about sNine months to find this common ground. On March 2, in the midst of a 61-goal, 113-point season for the Reigns’ 65-win record and 135 points, Pasternak signed an eight-year extension with the sixth-largest game in the league ($11.25 million). ).

(Dan Hamilton / USA Today)

Time and time again, rival teams have followed a similar path.

The Avalanche and the Capitals left their captains, Gabriel Landeskoog and Alex Ovechkin, not long ago. They both re-signed that summer. The Predators played things out with Filip Forsberg before bringing him back on an eight-year contract last July.

The Lightning allowed Stephen Stamkos to play his second decade in the National Hockey League once. At the eleventh hour, after an infamous meeting with the Leafs during the free agent interview period, Stamkos finally made his return to the only NHL team he’d ever known.

Rival teams tend to keep players who fear fame. Think of Ondrej Palat, who left the Lightning last summer after a third straight trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, or even Zach Hyman, who was retained by the Leafs when they tried (and failed) to qualify for the playoffs in 2021.

The math is just different for cup hopefuls than for teams who don’t have a chance to compete. It’s less about asset management than trying to maximize your tournament roster this chapter.

Ultimately, the contributions a star can make during at least one run to another trophy outweigh the risk of the star in question going out of his own free will. And of course, there is always the possibility of a player being re-signed after all is said and done.

As the team’s third-best player (and sometimes the best in the playoffs), it’s clear that Nylander will be a huge help in the Leafs’ championship aspirations next season. Last season he faced Auston Matthews leading the team with 40 goals and finishing 20th in the league with 87 points. Both were highs in their careers. At times, he was the Leafs’ most exciting forward in the playoffs. (Morgan Rielly was the Leafs’ undisputed MVP.)

There may be another level to get to Nylander. Her output per 60 minutes has increased steadily in each of the past four seasons.

Nylander productivity in any situation

season PTS/60









Do the Leafs see him as a true cornerstone of the franchise in the same way the Bruins view Pastrnak? Do they see it as a permanent paper or something close? Are they willing to pay more than they are willing to pay to make it happen? If so, apparently keeping him for next season, hopefully with an extension, is the way to go.

On the other hand, if they have no intention of paying the price of Nylander today, or tomorrow, or next March, or next June, then what? The answer probably still hangs in Nylander anyway.

The trade is worth exploring, but it’s only beneficial to the Leafs if it ensures they stay competitive next season. And it’s a daunting task, part of which will replace Nylander’s sizable offensive contributions as John Tavares enters his 33-year-old season.

It’s not easy being short, especially if Nylander is still undervalued outside of Toronto and commercial offers are poor.

That’s why out of the box look at the track that happens tends to be more attractive to teams like the Leafs. Maybe(?) you won’t see the Hurricanes shop Sebastian Ahu, who is also entering the final year of his contract, if they can’t extend it this summer. Same story with Pittsburgh’s Jake Genzel or Stamkos, who is entering the final year of that agreement he signed in 2016.

Nylander still brings bleak value to his current deal: Ninety-five NHL players will get more than the cap ($6.9 million) next season.

Johnny Goudreau has become the boogeyman when it comes to gaming cons. The Flames, with Treliving as general manager, retained Gaudreau (represented by Nylander agent Lewis Gross) for the final year of his contract and then saw him join Columbus. It’s easy to look back now and say the Flames would have absolutely traded him had it not been for overtime. They were still trying to win the cup! Gaudreau was their best player. More importantly, they still hope to sign him.

Was Treliving supposed to deal with him anyway to maximize trump cards even if he minimized the Flames’ chances of contention?

Again, the math is different for teams trying to win.

Extension talks also tend to be excellent. For Nylander to leave the open market next summer, the Leafs have to make it worth it this summer. Otherwise, why stretch? Why not wait until July 1st? Nylander could score 50 goals next season and/or lead the Leafs to a long playoff series.

So what is it worth?

The conversation about Nylander’s impending third NHL contract is similar in some ways to the conversation over the past decade. Not that high, not yet anyway. But it’s the same Nylander is not equal to X – In this case, the annual price is close to $10 million. Unlike last time, I’m inclined to think that Nylander will end up being an investment that might seem high at first. And if the Leafs decide to relaunch him, which seems clear now, they could also go ahead and shut down Nylander.

At worst, it is a business asset.

Nylander’s contract after next season also guarantees the Leafs if Mitch Marner’s extension talks next summer are called off.

Does the impending Marner complicate the matter of allowing Nylander to complete his current deal? maybe. Marner will gain more negotiating leverage if Nylander steps down next summer.

However, if the current options are to pay Nylander, force a smuggling deal, or play him and keep negotiating, playing him may be the way to go for the Leafs. Just like other suitors.

(Top photo: Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Statistics and research courtesy of Cap Friendly, Hockey Reference, and Natural Stat Trick

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