The 2018 William Nylander contract holdout was a bane to Toronto Maple Leafs fans for the first two months of that season.
Here we are nearly four seasons later and Nylander is more than halfway through the contract he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Looking back, the almost seven-million dollars per year that Nylander is getting could be viewed as a bargain when Nylander is playing up to his talent.
Though he is a point-per-game player this season, Sheldon Keefe didn’t like how the Leafs second line was looking, and he moved Nylander down to the third line. The change sparked Nylander and he’s playing some of the best and most complete hockey of his career. He’s already tied his career high in goals and has a career high in assists.
He’s been excellent. in the offensive zone this season. The offensive output has never been Nylander’s issue. The issue he has is his effort in the defensive zone, and often what he brings in this part of the game is just not acceptable. Sheldon Keefe thought as much and put Nylander on the third line.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander
According to CapFriendly, the Toronto Maple Leafs have around 53 million dollars invested in their forwards. That includes about 33 million to Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner. Throw in the seven million that Nylander gets and that’s 40 million dollars, almost half of the salary cap, to four players.
Though the Leafs have been one of the NHL’s best teams almost since the day they signed those contracts, the salary cap has been static for years now, and the team may finally be forced to reconsider their strategy, leaving Nylander as perhaps the odd-man out.
The Leafs have six pending UFAs on their books: Jack Campbell, Ilya Mikheyev, Jason Spezza, Colin Blackwell, Mark Giordano and Ilya Lyubushkin. They also have four pending RFAs in Rasmus Sandin, Ondrej Kase, Timothy Liljegren and Pierre Engvall.
Out of these ten players, the only one that Kyle Dubas shouldn’t bring back be back is Spezza. The age is just too much and there are better pieces that can be used on the fourth line during the regular season.
So why trade Nylander? Well you can’t trade Matthews, Marner or Tavares, and he’s the only other big contract, so if you want to maintain your depth, that might be your only option. Additionally, as a player who is out performing his contract, he should bring back a lot in a trade.
It’s a difficult trade to pull the trigger on, because the second you trade a player like Nylander your team is likely worse. There’s no getting around that. The team will be worse from a talent perspective if Nylander is shipped off in the offseason. However, teams are often forced to make decisions like this, and freeing up cap space to sign other players might still be the best decision in the long run.
Trading Nylander would open up that seven million dollars of cap room to help the Leafs keep some of the guys that are coming off of the books.
They could keep Lyubushkin. They could keep Mikheyev. They could keep Blackwell. They might even be able to keep Jack Campbell and go sign another goalie.
There’s a lot to be seen with the Leafs cap situation for the future. Jake Muzzin might not play another game after this season and be placed on LTIR. There’s still so much we don’t know about what might happen, the Toronto Maple Leafs may need to finally investigate a Nylander trade.