The long-awaited saga between William Nylander and the Toronto Maple Leafs is finally at an end. The Toronto Maple Leafs announced they have signed the holdout restricted free agent to a six-year, $45MM deal, according to CapFriendly. Nylander is expected to be on a plane from Stockholm to Toronto within 10 hours.
“We always tried to stay optimistic,” said general manager Kyle Dubas (via TSN’s Kristin Shilton). “We had our process and we have a great staff…it wasn’t really an emotional experience. It’s my duty to the organization to put the organization in the best possible spot with all our economics. We hope to always avoid [a standoff], but it’s a realistic situation.”
The deal has a complicated structure, especially for the first year. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Nylander’s first-year salary is pro-rated at 10MM (6.67MM), plus a $2MM signing bonus, which comes out to net $8.67MM and a $10.2MM AAV. In the remaining years of the deal, Nylander’s AAV is $6.996MM.
Here is a breakdown of the deal (via CapFriendly):
- 2018-19: $10MM salary + $2MM signing bonus = $10.2 AAV
- 2019-20: $700K salary + $8.3MM signing bonus = $6.97 AAV
- 2020-21: $2.5MM salary + $3.5MM signing bonus = $6.97 AAV
- 2021-22: $2.5MM salary + $3.5MM signing bonus = $6.97 AAV
- 2022-23: $2.5MM salary + $3.5MM signing bonus = $6.97 AAV
- 2023-24: $2.5MM salary + $3.5MM signing bonus = $6.97 AAV
For Nylander, it ends a long holdout as Nylander missed out on 59 days of the season, officially signing five minutes before the NHL deadline for him to sign an NHL contract this year. With rumors that Nylander had been holding out for $8MM and trying to force Dubas’ hand in the rookie GM’s first holdout negotiations, Nylander was forced to settle for under $7MM, which is a win for Dubas.
“I think all offers varied. I’m not going to get into where our offers started and where theirs started,” Dubas said. “I’m happy for our team and I’m happy for William. I wish we had been able to get this done before training camp…happy to add William.”
McKenzie also notes that Nylander received a 10-team modified no-trade clause in the final year of the deal as he is not eligible for a no-trade clause for another five years.
The 22-year-old center was considered to be a key piece of Toronto’s young core, but with the team’s salary cap having tightened up over the past two years with signings to major free agents Patrick Marleau and more recently to John Tavares, the team needed to prove that they could extend some of their younger players for discounts or be forced to break apart some of the team. Nylander is only the first of many of their future contract negotiations as Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner will both be restricted free agents this coming offseason and are expected to get paid even higher than Nylander. The team also have several other key contracts, including Nylander’s on-ice replacement this year in Kasperi Kapanen, who has played well enough to earn himself quite a raise in restricted free agency next season. Andreas Johnsson’s play should also get a boost in pay as a restricted free agent as well. The team also will have to factor in the contract of defenseman Jake Gardiner who will hit unrestricted free agency next season and needs to be locked up.
“I knew people were ready to jam that one down my throat,” Dubas said. “We hope all these guys will be career Leafs. That’s our goal, is to keep it together…We’ve had discussions with [Matthews and Marner’s agents]. We want to avoid a situation where all our players aren’t in training camp. Not [making history] in the way we’d like to [with Nylander deal].”
Despite the long holdout and his $8MM asking price, Nylander fared pretty well. The Maple Leafs had made it clear early in negotiations this summer that they weren’t willing to go past six years at $6MM, so to get an extra $1MM per year is impressive, considering the team’s budget.
TSN’s Darren Dreger was the first to report the deal.