With only days to go until the Toronto Maple Leafs open the regular season, restricted free agent William Nylander is still without a contract.
Saturday evening on Sportsnet, Nick Kypreos and Brian Burke shared their perspectives on the situation with David Amber.
“Management has to have this fight,” asserted Burke as part of a five-minute discussion. “Management has to have this fight with William Nylander because the size of every single slice of pie matters in a hard cap system.
“They have to fight him here, and there’s two reasons: 1) They’ve got to worry about their own cap situation. But I don’t see even at what I hear is the Leafs’ number of 6, I see massive cap problems anyway. I honestly believe they’re going to go for a long-term deal. Kyle Dubas is doing this just right. Beat this guy into submission, make him take a long-term deal at your number, and then he’s tradeable. They’ll get way more for him if he’s signed for six years than they will if he’s signed on a bridge deal.”
“And if that number is south of $7 million, there’s a chance for that six or seven-year deal according to the Toronto Maple Leafs,” indicated Kypreos. “If he stands pat here and he does not want to go down that path, I think the next move for him is to ask for a trade. Because there’s no way he’s going to going to get to $8 or $9 million on the Toronto Maple Leafs. To get that money, he’s going to have to go to another hockey club.”
“Ok, this is interesting,” said Amber. “You’re saying the last step would be to ask for a trade.”
“That would be my move,” replied Kypreos.
“It’s irreparable damage,” noted Amber. “And it’s a marriage that can’t get put back together.”
“Yes, absolutely. It absolutely can get put back together,” interjected Burke. “Kyle Dubas is really smart. As a young GM, he’s not going to buckle under to a trade demand from a young player. He’s going to say same thing I told players in Vancouver. ‘I hope you have a good TV set, because that’s the next NHL team you’re going to see play, is us on Sportsnet.’
“But what the breaking point Brian,” wondered Amber. “And what I mean from that from management’s side is let’s say there is an injury, which you talked about in the pregame. Let’s say the Leafs get off to a horrible start. There’s going to be all of this pressure. ‘We’ve got to get this guy signed’ because this is supposed to be a team and a season that’s going in this direction.
“What’s the breaking point for management?”
“Well first off, I think those are unlikely eventualities,” predicted Burke. “I don’t think they’re going to have a poor start based on the strength of schedule and the strength of their team, I think they may win a lot of games 6-4, but the power play is lethal - they’re going to score goals. They don’t need this aspect that this player brings as much as they need other aspects. So I think they can start without him.
“And I like this player. His dad played for me in Hartford. I like this player. I think that he’s important to them. But they can start without him.
“Doesn’t sound like the Leafs are interested in a short-term deal,” said Kypreos. “They want him long term at their number. Who breaks first.”
Amber reiterated at this point that there are only four days remaining until the season begins.
“Four days is an eternity in a contract negotiation,” indicated Burke. “If they want him in for opening night, 12 hours is plenty of time to do a deal. Four hours is plenty of time. Four days is an eternity. I’m not even returning the agent’s call on the fourth day before.”
“Nylander would have to cave for that to happen,” said Kypreos.
Amber wanted to know if both sides were moving in this negotiation.
“I can only tell you this,” relayed Burke. “This agent represented Johnny Gaudreau. Made some demands which we’ve never made public when I worked for the Flames because we thought people would resent them.
“And magically - because it doesn’t cost William Nylander anything. He hasn’t lost a cent yet. He’ll lose money starting Wednesday night. My prediction is he’ll move on Tuesday - the agent did that with us with Gaudreau - and they’ll get this deal done.”
Gaudreau’s six-year, $40.5 million contract was signed October 10, 2016, which was two days before the Calgary Flames opened the regular season.
The Maple Leafs open the regular season Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens.
Contract-related info via CapFriendly