Toronto Maple Leafs Shoulda Signed Nylander When He Was Cheap

The Toronto Maple Leafs best player so far this season went home and put on a show.

The Toronto Maple Leafs probably regret not meeting Nylander’s asking point this past summer, as his new contract has only gotten more expensive since.

Last night in Sweden, playing for the first time in front of many of his friends and family, William Nylander engineered yet another come-from-behind victory for the Leafs, finishing with a goal and two assists in front of the hometown crowd.

Nylander now is only 2 goals off the league lead (he has 11) and 2 points off the scoring lead as well (25 points). (

It’s a great start for Nylander, but the question has to be asked: is he pricing himself out of town? Clearly the Leafs should have signed him this summer when they could have gotten him cheaper.

Toronto Maple Leafs Shoulda Signed Nylander When He Was Cheap

William Nylander has been playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs for nine years. Now 27-years-old, he has been playing his trade in Toronto since he was a teenager.

It has been hard for Maple Leafs fans to separate the player from his contract.

That was true when he it took Kyle Dubas until Dec. 1, 2018 to negotiate Nylander’s current deal. There was a great deal of anger from a portion of the fanbase that thought Nylander’s holding out had forced the Leafs general manager to overpay on a long-term deal.  This couldn’t have been further from the truth, but these weren’t exactly the kind of fans swayed by evidence.

According to Cap Friendly, they agreed to a six-year $45M pact.

Dubas was eventually vindicated thanks to the way Nylander has played, even though it was clearly from the beginning his contract was a complete bargain.

Last season, in a full complement of 82 games, he recorded 40 goals and 47 assists for a total of 87 points. This year’s campaign appears to be headed in an even better direction. Recording at least a point in every one of the first 16 games.

There is an argument to be made that he is currently one of the top 15 players in the NHL, and so far this year he is an easy Hart Trophy candidate.

As Nylander continues to dazzle with his on-ice prowess, the inevitable contract negotiations on the horizon present a complex challenge for the Maple Leafs current GM, Brad Treliving.

The team faces the delicate task of rewarding Nylander for his outstanding contributions while navigating the constraints of the salary cap. It’s the same challenge Dubas faced with trying to fit his four top stars into the same cap (which he actually ended up doing pretty easily).

Treliving has to maneuver around Auston Matthews’ $13.25M, John Tavares’ $11M, and Mitch Marner’s $10.903M cap hits next season. The heart of the matter lies in Nylander’s increased market value, a direct result of his exceptional performance. Every goal, assist, and impactful play contribute to the growing price tag attached to his name.

Lewis Gross, Nylander’s agent, was given permission to negotiate with team management during the season. As each game passes, Gross’s position gains more strength for a push to improve Treliving’s offers.

Other teams around the league, undoubtedly aware of Nylander’s rising star, are likely to express interest when the time for negotiations arrives. The Toronto Maple Leafs are aware that this external interest has the potential to drive up the cost of retaining Nylander if he makes it to free agency. That puts pressure on the the Maple Leafs to get a deal done despite being in a precarious financial position.

The concern, of course, is that Nylander has played so well that the Leafs will not be able to afford his salary cap hit next season and beyond. The ongoing negotiations will be a litmus test for this new Maple Leafs management, gauging their ability to navigate the financial landscape of the NHL.

The hockey world watches with anticipation as the story of William Nylander and the Toronto Maple Leafs unfolds once again. This time, as Nylander continues to produce, the other NHL clubs know they are that much closer from poaching him away from Toronto next season.