Toronto Maple Leafs v William Nylander – Pick a Side

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 8: William Nylander
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 8: William Nylander /

William Nylander and the Toronto Maple Leafs still remain apart on contract negotiations as of October 6th, 2018.

William Nylander hasn’t signed his next contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs as they prepare for game two of the regular season against the Ottawa Senators.

The Leafs drafted Nylander 8th overall in 2014.  He signed his entry-level contract at age 18 and has professional experience in three NHL seasons since then.

The NHL Players Association Collective Bargaining Agreement (The CBA“) only requires that a teenage player play at least 10 games in a season for that to count as a year of professional experience; thus, Nylander’s 22-game call-up with the Leafs in 2015/16 counts as a year of NHL experience.

For that reason, Nylander is a restricted free agent (“RFA”) according to section 10.2(a) of the CBA.

As an RFA, other teams who attempt to claim Nylander through an offer sheet must compensate the Toronto Maple Leafs relative to the salary he received in the new deal they offer him.

In an article I wrote three weeks ago, I calculated that Nylander deserves around 6.6M AAV in his next contract.

I’ve read in multiple sources that Nylander and the Toronto Maple Leafs both want a long-term deal, but they disagree about the salary (i.e., William’s side wants more money; Shannahan wants Willy to take a “hometown discount”).

Some sources suggest Nylander is holding out for around 8M AAV per season.  But I don’t think the Leafs will pay Nylander any more than $7,000,000 a year.

If another team attempts to make an offer to Nylander while this contract debacle continues, the Toronto Maple Leafs have the ability to exercise their right of first refusal within one week of the offer being made as per section 10.3(a) of the CBA.  In other words, they can void that team’s offer at their discretion within a seven days.

The only situation I could see the Leafs choosing not to exercise their right of first refusal is if the offer made to Nylander from another team greatly exceeds $8,400,000 AAV.

In that case, as per section 10.4 of the CBA, the team that made an offer to Nylander would have to compensate the Toronto Maple Leafs with four first-round draft picks.  If the offer was below 8.4M, but still above 6.7M, the Leafs would be entitled to compensation in the form of the following: two first-round draft picks, one second round pick, and one third round pick.

Nylander is unable to play in the NHL this season if he doesn’t sign a new contract by December 1 as per section 11.4 of the CBA.

William Nylander and his perspective

I’m going to go on the record and say that William Nylander probably isn’t a bad guy, he just wants to be paid fairly.

With that said, he clearly feels that the offer the Toronto Maple Leafs made him was too low.  He’d be playing now if he didn’t think that.

Nylander is concerned about his future, both long term and short.

Although he wants to play for the Leafs, he doesn’t want to sell himself short on this long-term deal that will pay him for his prime playing years.

Also, I’ve heard Nylander’s father was a journeyman of sorts in the NHL who played for multiple teams.

Willy may want a long-term deal with high AAV because he wants to be with the Leafs for years and he’s worried that if he signs to team friendly of a deal that his contract will be too moveable.

Shanahan and MLSE’s perspective

Shanahan wants Nylander to take a team friendly deal and help the Leafs remain competitive for years to come.

In essence, Shanahan is asking Willy to trust that if he resigns for a low AAV, he won’t turn around and use Nylander as a trade chip to obtain a top flight D man.

Put differently, Shanahan and MLSE want Nylander to be a good soldier and “take one for the team” so there’s money left over to pay depth players and sign other stars.  The Leafs top brass wants Willy around; however, they need him to put the team first, not his own financial gain.

Out of the two camps, I side with Shanahan for two reasons:

1) Nylander holding out this long is definitely affecting Matthews and Marner’s view of the contract negotiation process; and

2) I see absolutely no reason why Nylander should feel like the 6-7 million per year he’s worth isn’t enough.  Most of us work our whole lives and never see that kind of money (i.e., Nylander can live just fine making 6.6M a year; and he shouldn’t let greed cloud his view of that simple fact).

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