As the season begins (and the Nylander saga drags on), many Leaf fans find themselves searching for ways to reassure themselves that the Buds will be able to secure all of their core pieces long-term. While adding Tavares was undoubtedly an excellent move, it has certainly muddied the waters in terms of the club’s ability to lock down the trio of Matthews, Marner, and Nylander beyond this upcoming season.
With this on my mind, I set out to investigate the most immediate concern facing Kyle Dubas and the front office: getting Nylander signed to a team-friendly contract, while still leaving room to ink Matthews and Marner following the expiration of their entry-level deals.
By all accounts this will be no easy feat, with many pundits doubting the likelihood that rookie General Manager Kyle Dubas can get all three of the Leafs’ young guns under long-term contracts.
Considering the obvious fact that in any contract negotiation it takes two to tango, I have elected to attack the Nylander contract from the perspectives of both the team and the Nylander camp. Each side’s case will then be further broken down into two negotiation tactics, hopefully shedding some light on what has been a rather reticent (some might even say Lamoriello-esque) negotiation thus far. As contract negotiations often focus on a player’s most recent performance (the “What have you done for me lately?” approach) or a player’s projected performance (the “Whatcha gonna do, brother?” approach), I have crunched the numbers for both sides using each approach.
In order to come up with some approximate figures that the two sides might be kicking around, I looked at categories such as Nylander’s projected offensive output, contact/performance comparables, and the percentage of the cap taken up by each comparable contract at the time of signing. While I will grant that certain numbers used are up for debate (Nylander’s projected output, the projected salary cap, etc.), this exercise was really just for fun and to kill some time while we suffer through the absurdly excessive 8 preseason games.
To kick things off, let’s begin with the Nylander camp. Considering Nylander is one of two remaining unsigned RFAs (Nick Ritchie - ANA), it is clear he and agent Lewis Gross are seeking a dollar amount the Leafs are not prepared to shell out. Although the issue could potentially be Nylander’s camp seeking a bridge deal, the majority of reports have suggested that both sides are more interested in a long-term pact. <br> Nylander is a 22 year old former first round pick, playing the wing, and is coming off of back-to-back 61 point seasons. With these factors considered, it is likely the Nylander camp is using players such as Ehlers, Forsberg and Pastrnak as short/medium-term comparables, and a player like Draisaitl as a long-term comparable. The charts below show some of the figures that the Nylander camp might be asking for depending on the length of contract, and which approach they are using to calculate his offensive output
Nylander Camp - Based on Projection
<br>Nylander Camp - Based on Performance the Previous Season
<br> As previously indicated, this contractual tango requires a second party… enter Kyle Dubas, Brandon Pridham (Assistant GM), and Laurence Gilman (Assistant GM). While the Leafs’ front office is tasked with getting Nylander signed to a new deal, they must also consider the ramifications of this deal on future negotiations with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. If Dubas is able to get Nylander to follow the lead of newly signed John Tavares and take what many consider to be a “hometown” discount, it should become much easier to convince Matthews and Marner to follow suit. This has clearly factored in to the Leafs’ negotiation strategy thus far, as Dubas has held his ground despite Nylander missing camp, and potentially the start of the regular season. <br> Similar to the Nylander camp, the Leafs are likely looking at players such as Ehlers, Forberg and (to a lesser extent) Pastrnak as potential comparables for Nylander. The Leafs most certainly do not want to venture into Draisaitl territory, as a contract that large would have major cap ramifications, and would undoubtedly result in the loss of one of Marner, Matthews or Nylander - a major wrinkle in the “ShanaPlan”.
The charts below show some of the figures the Leafs may be using in order to calculate a team-friendly deal for Willy.
Leafs' Camp - Based on Projection
<br> Leafs' Camp - Based on Performance the Previous Season
Judging by these calculations, it is clear the two sides are quite far apart, especially if they’re looking at a contract of 6 or more years. As reported by several sources, Nylander’s camp might be looking at a deal in the neighbourhood of 8 million AAV, while the Leafs would be much more comfortable in the 6 and change ballpark. Aside from an offer sheet scenario, it looks as if the Leafs hold all of the cards here. Sitting out the preseason is all fine and dandy, but when it comes down to Nylander losing out on actual salary, his tune might change. While the Leafs are undoubtedly a better team with Nylander in the lineup, holding their ground is ultimately the better course of action. Although Tyler Ennis is no William Nylander, getting Nylander signed to a team-friendly contract is imperative, and much more valuable in the long run than having him lace up to start the season on time. Should Nylander’s camp cave (and they likely will), Leafs’ management will be putting themselves in a much better position to sign Matthews and Marner to long-term deals. Dubas would also be setting the Leafs up to receive much more in a potential Nylander trade, should their cap situation require such a move down the line.
In any case, all we can do as fans is sit back and hope the two sides can come to an arrangement soon. While a long term deal seems to be the goal at the moment, if talks break down we may wind up seeing a bridge deal, further complicating the financial future of the club. In either event, this upcoming season will continue to be one of the most anticipated in franchise history, hopefully with Nylander in the fold sooner rather than later.