There are two main questions Toronto Maple Leafs fans are asking these days. When will William Nylander sign, and what will his contract look like. Training camp starts in less than a month. It’s almost assured he’ll be signed by then. But it looks like it’s going down to the wire. There are a few reasons the signing has yet to take place.
What Cap Hit Will William Nylander Sign With
There’s No Rush
Nylander has expressed a couple times now that he’s not in a rush and neither is Kyle Dubas. Here are a couple of his recent quotes from an interview with Mike Zeisberger at NHL.com.
“I’ve said all along that Kyle wanted to take things slow and I’m fine with that,” Nylander said. “They’re going back and forth with my agent from what I hear. We’ll see what happens. They said it would take a while and I’m still not worried. When it gets done, it gets done.”
“There is no extra pressure or urgency to get something done just because guys like [Larkin] sign.”
Dubas, like previous Maple Leaf general manager Lou Lamoriello, likes to use his time when he has it. There’s no rush to sign Nylander because there’s no need to rush.
Nylander is the only remaining restricted free agent on the team. The Maple Leafs don’t need to worry about how much salary cap space they have left this season to sign other players. They need to worry about the future, but there’s nothing putting pressure on them to get a deal done ASAP.
Speaking of cap space, they still have plenty of room to sign Nylander. Just under $14 million in remaining space. Some of that is accounted for with potential bonuses for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. But there is plenty to sign Nylander.
Next year, however, is a different story. Both Matthews and Marner are restricted free agents next season. With John Tavares signing for $11 million a year, the Maple Leafs will be tight against the cap next season after signing Matthews and Marner. Some believe they can’t fit them all in under the cap, although Dubas argues otherwise.
Nylander’s contract won’t have a significant impact on the team’s cap concerns this year, but it will have a significant impact next year.
Nylander himself referred to Dylan Larkin‘s new contract. Larkin signed a five-year contract with a cap hit of $6.1 million. Larkin scored 63 points in his third full NHL season. he had 45 and 32 in his first two years respectively. His career Corsi For is 50.9 percent. Nylander has 61 points in both of his first two full NHL seasons. He also has a better Corsi For than Larkin at 52.6 percent.
Larkin may have outscored Nylander, by a mere two points, last season, but Nylander has shown a little more consistency, albeit in a relatively short time frame. Nylander’s agent will argue he’s worth more than Larkin, and he probably is. There will also be a premium if the Maple Leafs want to sign Nylander to the max eight-year contract.
David Pastrnak signed a six-year deal with a cap hit of $6.67 million last year. He was coming off a 34 goal and 70 point season. The Maple Leafs would like to see Nylander sign something comparable to Pastrnak’s contract. They could even argue Nylander is worth less than Pastrnak considering his career high in goals for a season is only 22.
What’s Going to Inflate His Cap Hit
There are two significant factors to take into consideration when comparing Nylander’s potential contract to others. One is that if the Maple Leafs want to sign him to an eight-year deal it will cost them more. The other is that the cap rose $4.5 million last year, and it may jump another $4-5 million next year.
If the Maple Leafs want to sign Nylander to an eight-year deal, they’ll be locking him up for four years he would otherwise have been a UFA. Pastrnak and Larkin both signed six-year deals. If Nylander signs for six, his cap hit probably will be somewhere in the $6.5-7 million dollar range. He’ll be 28 years old when that contract expires, hitting the unrestricted free agent market at a good time. Considering the rate the salary cap is increasing, he could easily be looking at a contract north of $10 million a year at that point.
What Will An Eight-Year Contract Would Cost
If Nylander signed a six-year deal for $7 million, he could expect the next two years to come in at $10 million a season. That would require the cap to continue to grow, and for Nylander’s production to remain steady. Most people would agree it’s likely Nylander improves over the next few seasons. He’s still only 22 after all.
Signing an eight-year deal at $7 million per season would cost Nylander $6 million, assuming he’s missing out on $10 million a year for those two additional years. He would then also be 30 when his contract ended. There may not be a ton of logic behind it, but 30 is a nice even number to say players begin to decline when reaching. That would hurt his value as a free agent.
If the Maple Leafs agree they want to give Nylander that extra $6 million in potential earnings, they could add it to his annual average salary and sign him for eight years at $7.75 per season.
I overestimated Nylander’s potential salary a bit to illustrate how important every million will be to the Maple Leafs next season in an article about Andreas Johnsson. But my estimate of $8 million is not far off his real value if they want to sign him for eight years.
Home Town Discount
Nylander wasn’t born in Toronto, so if he did take a discount, it wouldn’t be because he’s a Toronto boy, unlike Connor Brown, Tavares, and Marner. But he could still take a bit of a discount in an effort to make the team as competitive as it can be for as long as it can be. Tavares signed a very team friendly deal, reportedly leaving few million on the table from the San Jose Sharks. That’s got to be encouraging for both players and fans.
There’s much more to this contract than there appears to be at first glance. Marner’s contract next year will carry similar intrigue. The potential range in both yearly salary and length are much greater than they would be for someone like Matthews. Matthews will sign for eight-years at something comparable to Tavares, but the Maple Leafs and Nylander have options to consider. This will be the most important contract Nylander ever signs, and it’s going to be one of the most important the Maple Leafs sign too. What the contract ends up looking like is going to say a lot about what we can expect next year’s restricted free agents to sign for.
TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 9: William Nylander #29 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the St. Louis Blues during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 9, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Blues defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)