Make no mistake, William Nylander has been the early season MVP for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Nylander, along with goaltender Joseph Woll, are the main reasons the Toronto Maple Leafs have been able to accumulate points while playing less-than-inspiring hockey.
Getting the star winger extended garnered lots of attention during the Leafs offseason and continues to be a storyline now.
While both sides haven’t revealed much about any potential contract discussions (that’s probably a positive sign), it’s doubtful a new deal is imminent.
At this point, it is in the Leafs best interest to wait it out. Nylander is having a career year and his contract number is increasing. While the Leafs hope he maintains his play, even though he gains more leverage as next summer’s free agency nears, some regression in Nylander’s play might bring the numbers back down to something more satisfactory for the team.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Must Now Wait To Extend Nylander
Before the season, talk of Nylander wanting a $10 million AAV on an extension was considered a big number. Then, Nylander bolted out of the gates on his way to points in 17 consecutive games to start the year.
Suddenly, the $10 million AAV seemed like a bargain for the Leafs. Such is the way of contract negotiations. Often it is about which side will blink first or can a number be found that satisfies both sides.
Nylander chose to bet on himself, while the Leafs wanted to see more from the player before making that kind of commitment. Each side was comfortable playing the waiting game.
With Nylander’s hot start and projections of reaching new heights, the Leafs best option is to be prudent.
Nylander has been the Leafs most consistent player and found himself among the NHL’s top scorers earlier in the year.
The best of players are going to have lulls throughout an eighty-two-game schedule. Perhaps, Nylander is having one right now or maybe it is a regression to the mean.
Nikita Kucherov, David Pastrnak, Mikko Rantanen, and teammate Mitch Marner are considered the upper tier at the position.
Some of those names are having comparable or better seasons than Nylander. By the end of the NHL year, Nylander may settle in as a top 5 right winger league-wide and somewhere around the top 20 in league scoring.
Then, the question becomes what do you pay a top-five right winger for a 100-point season, as they move into their late twenties?
The conclusion of the season will also be a better barometer to determine where Nylander stands among the Leafs hierarchy of players.
Does he surpass Marner and slot in behind Auston Matthews? Maybe, he remains behind the dynamic duo as the Leafs third-best player.
Thanks to Nylander’s torrid start, the Toronto Maple Leafs should wait before extending his contract. The rest of the season should be used for further evaluation.
By then, the Leafs and Nylander will have all they need to come up with a deal that works for both the team and the player.