While the Toronto Maple Leafs get their season started against the Montreal Canadiens tonight, there is one player conspicuously missing from the lineup. That’s William Nylander, who is still without a contract and now missing regular season games as he holds out for a lucrative long-term deal. The Maple Leafs are moving forward without Nylander on the wing of Auston Matthews, but certainly don’t want to wait very long for one of their young stars to re-enter the lineup.
Still, the Maple Leafs know they can’t give in to demands and pay Nylander an exceptional amount of money. Toronto will soon be faced with a very real cap crunch as Matthews and fellow star forward Mitch Marner finish their own entry-level contracts this season, and with John Tavares already locked up for $11MM per season there isn’t a ton of money to go around. It’s Tavares that the team hopes its young forwards take a lesson from according to President and Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan, who told reporters today including Kristen Shilton of TSN that the club expects their players to want to win hockey games more than earn the absolute most money possible. That’s what Tavares did this summer according to Shanahan, and also what he believes his Stanley Cup-winning Detroit Red Wings teams did when he was still on the ice.
Tavares did indeed leave money on the table to come to Toronto, as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports in his excellent recent piece detailing the offseason signing. Friedman writes that the San Jose Sharks were rumored to be willing to offer $13.5MM per season, while the New York Islanders basically had a blank check waiting for Tavares, one that would have been filled out in “McDavid territory.”
While that may have been Shanahan just sharing some honest feelings with the media as he approached the season opener, it also seems as though it is a bit of a negotiation tactic with his unsigned star. The Maple Leafs are forging on ahead without Nylander at the moment, and aren’t willing to put themselves in a tough spot financially by catering to whatever the player is asking for. It’s a tough stance for Toronto fans to appreciate, but it might end up saving them in the end if they plan on keeping their young core together long-term.