Dreger: Nylander camp, Leafs committed to contract resolution

Training camp is quickly approaching for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and William Nylander is still without a contract.

The talented forward’s entry-level pact has expired.

“Well, as I said last week, I’d be surprised if Nylander was in camp,” indicated NHL Insider Darren Dreger during a Monday morning appearance on Toronto’s TSN 1050. “As Kyle Dubas acknowledged in his interview with Bob McKenzie, it’s just the reality of the contract situation. You’re not going into camp unless you’ve got a contract. Things can change very, very quickly.

“I sensed that going into this past weekend there was some frustration - but I wouldn’t say animosity - between either side. They’re both committed to getting something done. Just a frustration that it isn’t moving along as maybe the player would have hoped.

“So unless the player steps forward in the next few days here and says, ‘Alright, let’s just cut this deal.’ And that’s happened, it’s happened with Lewis Gross, the agent. Maybe Nylander steps in and says, ‘Yeah, that’s enough. I can play for that. That’s good.’ Otherwise I wouldn’t be surprised if it drifts into training camp and takes a bit longer. And that would be unfortunate, I think, for Nylander.”

Nylander, naturally, is only a restricted free agent at this point.

Dreger was asked what he was hearing on the contract length front in terms of long term versus short term.

“Well, I think that they’ve focused for the most part on a long-term deal,” said Dreger. “What was the ask, and that’s a difficult number for guys to nail down. How many million. We’ve speculated, we’ve talked openly, on the various TSN 1050 shows on what’s he worth. Should he get just north of $6 million.

“Well, if he settles on just north of 6, then you can guess that the ask was probably in the high 6s, 7s, maybe higher than that. I mean, that’s what the agent is paid to do. You’ve not going to get it if you don’t ask for it.

“So I think that the focus has been primarily on a long-term deal, but I suppose we can’t rule out the possibility of a bridge at this stage.”

As the conversation on 1050 continued, Dreger was asked if he felt the Leafs were using this contract as a precedent for “the next two big ones coming up,” an allusion to both Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews being in the final seasons of their deals.

“No, I think what they would be doing is pushing their thumb hard on Nylander to say, ‘Look, if we give you what you need or what you feel you’re worth, then we’re not going to be able to sign Marner for what he thinks he’s worth, and that’s going to impact Matthews and so on and so forth,’” noted Dreger. “‘We want to keep you guys as the core nucleus of this team together forever.’ I mean, that’s the sale pitch that management must be giving.

“But I’m sure that Nylander is looking at all options, right. I’m sure they are. The long mega-deal might be Option 1 because of the financial security of all of it, but if you don’t get that six, seven, eight-year deal, aren’t you smarter then to look at the shorter term? And shorter term can be a variety of things, can’t it. Of course it’s the bridge of two or three years. But maybe a four, five-year deal makes more sense than a six, seven, eight-year deal.”

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