Toronto Maple Leafs Will Never Trade William Nylander

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not going to trade William Nylander.

After a protracted holdout, William Nylander finally signed a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs yesterday.  Other than one insane rant from Brian Burke, the contract was met with universal approval. It was a clear grand-slam homerun from rookie Leafs GM Kyle Dubas.

And it should – Nylander is worth every single penny of the contract today, and as it ages and the cap goes up, he is going to have a very, very valuable contract.  It’s going to be as team-friendly as Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner’s current deals (which are among the best contracts in the NHL). So it is a 100% guarantee that he will be a Leafs long-term and will not be traded.

The logic goes something like this: The deal is structured so that next season is essentially all signing bonus, meaning that the Leafs could trade Nylander to a team that will celebrate getting a player for free, in terms of real dollars, for one season.  After that they still have to pay him six million every year.

But why would the Leafs want to trade away a player after dropping a massive amount in signing bonuses on him? What is the Leafs incentive in this scenario? Yes other teams will want to trade for him, but he is a tradable commodity at almost any price, and if the Leafs move him because of cap troubles, they’d have to either take back a similar salary, trade for futures, or lose the trade.

By this point, they’ll also have Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren in the NHL, and maybe even Sean Durzi.  Travis Dermott will be in his prime.  They might have, by that point, already traded Kapanen for a defenseman.

Who knows?  It just seems pretty hilarious to sign a guy to a six year deal and then talk about trading him the next day.  It makes no logical sense.

Nylander a Leaf for Life

If we go by the rumours, Nylander wanted an eight year deal for eight million per year. The Toronto Maple Leafs settled for not getting those extra two years in exchange for Nylander taking a $6.9 AAV.  It’s a good deal for the Leafs because while Nylander probably would have been worth $8 million eventually, the lower cap hit helps now and he’s already worth what they’re paying him.

So essentially, for letting Nylander hit UFA status two years earlier, the Leafs get an absolutely 100% Iron-Clad guarantee that he will be worth the money they’re paying him, since he’s already there.

The entire concept of RFA contracts in today’s salary capped NHL is that you pay young players slightly more than their current worth in the hopes that they improve enough to put value in the deal.  But the Leafs are already getting that value, because Nylander is already an elite front-line player. He is worth $7 million today, and when he improves, when the cap goes up etc.  He’s going to be worth $9 or $10.

People are concerned about roster balance and fitting players in under the cap, but those are misguided concerns.  The more elite players a team has, the better they will be.  If you have six or seven core players locked up long term, you can just swap out the bottom of your roster.

One seven million dollar player and a rookie will always be worth more than two above average players combing to make the same money.

If an elite winger on a team-friendly deal is an attractive trade asset, he is also an attractive asset to the team that has him.  The Toronto Maple Leafs could move on from any  or all of Hainsey, Zaitsev, Brown, Hyman and Marleau. They could also consider not re-signing Kapanen, Johnsson or Gardiner before they’d ever consider trading Nylander.

There is nothing wrong with locking Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Tavares and Rielly into long-term deals.  The elite player’s aren’t the luxury. The Luxury is spending millions on mid-tier players like Marleau and Hainsey.

Sign as many elite players as you can, front-load your roster and fill in the cracks with prospects.  That is the Toronto Maple Leafs recipe, and Nylander and his new deal fit in perfectly. He will not be traded.

Let’s not forget that if they trade him for anything other than prospects on ELC deals, they will either have to take back money or a worse player.

Also, it was reported multiple times that one of Nylander’s biggest concerns was that he’d take a contract with the Leafs and they’d turn around and trade him.  Based on this, I have to believe he was reassured that he would not be dealt.  Obviously there are no guarantees, but I don’t think the Leafs would sign such a great deal, pay a ton of extra bonus money, and then ship him out of town once they’ve gotten exactly what they wanted.

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If he signed a bridge deal, that would be different.  But he signed for six years and he’s going to play every single one of them with the Toronto Maple Leafs.


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