The Toronto Maple Leafs announced their training camp roster today and young forward William Nylander was not on it as he continues to negotiate his next contract. Though both sides seemed very confident that a deal would be done before the season, nothing has been announced yet as the team prepares for camp to open. Darren Dreger was on TSN radio earlier today discussing the situation, and suggested that other sources around the league believe that Nylander’s ask could have been around $8MM per season. The Maple Leafs meanwhile, according to Dreger, are looking at other comparables that sit somewhere in the $6-7MM range.
Nylander, 22, is coming out of his entry-level contract and has made it clear that he would rather sign a long-term deal with the Maple Leafs. The team meanwhile has to carefully consider their options, given that big extensions are coming down the pipe for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner at some point. After handing out a $77MM contract to John Tavares this summer, the team could be trying to get Nylander on a bridge contract for now and deal with the cap problems up front later. Nylander’s teammates meanwhile have said that they expect him in camp, though unless something is announced in the next few hours it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be there for day one.
The Maple Leafs are a rising pick to contend for the Stanley Cup this season after their big free agent acquisition, but there is more than just Nylander’s deal to be done before they find themselves in the playoffs. The team’s defense still has several question marks given Travis Dermott’s relative inexperience and the lackluster right side, while there isn’t a ton of depth after their big three centers. At camp there will be a battle for the backup goaltender position as well, but the biggest distraction will easily be Nylander’s contract situation if it drags out. Though the report of $8MM could have just been an initial ask when the negotiations started, the two sides obviously haven’t yet come together on a number that suits both the long-term financial structure of the Maple Leafs and Nylander’s self perceived worth as an up and coming star.
After two consecutive seasons with 61 points, Nylander has already established himself as one of the better players from the 2014 draft. When we examined a group of players from that class and asked the PHR community which they’d rather have, the young Maple Leafs forward came in second behind David Pastrnak and ahead of both Nikolaj Ehlers and Dylan Larkin. If that’s his value going forward, he’d have to settle for a deal somewhere between Ehlers’ $6.0MM and Pastrnak’s $6.67MM cap hits.