In the final restricted free agent negotiation in the NHL this season, there has been little to report for some time. The Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander have been quiet in their negotiations, save for a face to face meeting between the young forward and GM Kyle Dubas in Switzerland recently. When the Maple Leafs GM was spotted at a recent New York Rangers-Calgary Flames game in New York, rumors exploded that he may be discussing a trade. Instead, he was in the city to speak personally to Nylander’s agent Lewis Gross, meetings that have kept the dialogue “open” according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.
Nylander meanwhile had been practicing in Austria with a professional team trying to stay sharp, but was not with them today according to former player Carlo Colaiacovo and Darren Dreger of TSN. While that absolutely does not guarantee a contract is imminent, it’s all that Maple Leafs fans have to go on given the relative silence surrounding the negotiation.
These talks continue as the Maple Leafs have hit a rough patch on the season. Without Nylander in the lineup, teams have begun to figure out how to stop Auston Matthews at even strength and take advantage of their defensive group. That’s resulted in just one goal from Toronto over their past two games, and two losses at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues. Nylander’s game is a possession one, and ends up helping the Maple Leafs at both ends of the rink given his ability to protect the puck and create offense.
There’s reason to believe that a contract is coming soon, if only because of the deadline of December 1st that is fast approaching. If Nylander does not sign by that date he will be ineligible to play at all this season, something that does not benefit either side. As James Mirtle of The Athletic (subscription required) wrote recently, it is starting to look like the eventual contract will have to be a bridge deal, but how long and for how much is still up in the air. For now, Dubas and Gross will have to keep working towards a solution that fits both parties, or risk losing out on an entire season of earning potential and NHL experience.