At 27, coming off the best year of his career, William Nylander has been off to a red-hot start for the Toronto Maple Leafs, notching six points through his first three games.
While this is definitely a positive for the Toronto Maple Leafs looking to capture their first Stanley Cup trophy since 1967, it also can be viewed as a negative by the more cynical fans of the team who are worried about his pending UFA status for the summer of 2024.
Fortunately, the Leafs were able to erase one issue for that same summer, locking up their franchise superstar Auston Matthews for the next five seasons.
Despite that, Nylander’s status with the team could now be up in the air as the 27-year-old continues to hit new heights in his career. An 87-point, 40-goal season has cemented Willy as one of the league’s best players and a star who is looking to cash in and surprise his current AAV of $6.9 million per season.
Toronto Maple Leafs Need To Sign William Nylander Now Or Trade Him
Many Maple Leafs fans won’t want to come to this reality, but a team currently paying close to $40 million AAV in Matthews, John Tavares, Mitchell Marner, and Morgan Rielly might not be capable of forking over the 8-digit pay cheque Nylander seemingly deserves.
Then again, the Leafs are paying Klingberg, Reaves, Kampf and Domi about $11 million dollars, and you can argue Nylander is far more valuable then all four of them combined, so money might not be the issue here, especially with Tavares only having a short time left on his deal.
Comparing across the league, names like Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Jack Eichel all come in with eight digits next to their annual salary, players comparable in career and season success to Willy.
Beyond the salary cap, there are hockey reasons for considering a trade. Though Nylander is an excellent player, the Leafs are deep at forward and have all their best prospects are forwards. Conversely they are weak at defense both in the NHL and in their pipeline.
Given Nylander’s contract situation and age, and the team’s glaring lack of a top-pairing defender, at the very least, a trade must be considered.
Signing Nylander to a deal now and figuring out how it all fits later could be the play for new Maple Leafs General Manager Brad Treliving but what if it’s not?
As insane as it may sound, all options have to be on the table for Treliving as the team cannot afford to lose an asset for Nylander for nothing. Whether that means jeopardizing the teams success in 2023-24, which for the record I’m not too bullish on, it is something that needs to be explored.
To the contrary of that point, if Nylander’s camp is looking for a deal starting with a nine, the team has to jump all over that prior to the massive breakout the 27-year-old has this season.