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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Getting Nylander His Eight Million Dollars (kinda)

Okay, so we’re really beating the Nylander contract situation to death today, but hang in there. We’re going to solve it right here and now. We’re going to arbitrate the shit out of this. Well not really, but we’re going to quickly look at some comparables, reaffirm that $8M a season is way too much for William Nylander, and then try to find a way to get it for him anyway.

First, The Comparables…

Here are some forwards who really know how to score. Some of them are clearly better than Nylander, some of them are clearly worse, and some of them are pretty reasonable to compare to. Instead of looking at what they are doing today, let’s take a look at what they did before they signed. And in particular, what did they do right before they signed. We’re also going to do something that’s equally reasonable here, and not at the player’s salary, but instead the percentage of cap space their contract occupied at the time. That way we’re not looking at Nik Ehler as a $6M player, we’re looking at him as a player who occupied 8% of the Jets cap space on a $75M cap. And if you believe that Ehlers is the best comparable for Nylander (he probably is) that would mean that Nylander would be getting a $6.36M player today.

The graph below is sorted left to right by date the player signed, and the cap hit % you see for Nylander is based on his $8M contract demand.

So basically Nylander is looking for a bigger chunk of the pie, why producing less offense than the players listed above. The average point total was 63 preceding the contract, and they averaged 8.9% of the salary cap.

It’s worth noting that some of these players are centers. It’s also worth noting that some of these players were drafted higher than Nylander and paying for potential might have factored in as well. You could also say that Nylander was drafted higher than many of these players and has the potential to be a center in the NHL, so for arguments sake, we’ll stick with this group.

So, let’s use the Pastrnak average to see what “is fair” for Nylander. In this case William Nylander could earn $7.07M AAV. That’s not a bad contract. In this situation he’d be making more than most of this sample group, except for Kuznetsov, Tarasenko, and Draisaitl. Not bad, but still not $8M.

Getting Willie To 8 Million

A while back, Capfriendly tweeted out an interesting solution to how the Leafs could potentially get money back on the Nylander deal. This is part of what I think will be helpful in bringing down Nylander’s contract, but see it more as a cherry on top rather than the full solution…

Not that skimming nearly $100k off of the AAV at this point if it’s an $8M contract for 7 years isn’t a big deal, but it won’t get Nylander’s desired $8M salary down to the more acceptable $7.07M cap hit that the comparables dictated as being fair.

Instead, we’ll hope that getting paid in potential lockouts closes the gap…

Rather than paying Nylander a full $8M salary in the lockout years, I’d suggest that the Leafs drop him down to 70% of his earnings, and pay it out as a signing bonus, giving him guaranteed money that he will receive regardless if the season is locked out. Nylander’s agent used a similar bonus idea in Johnny Gaudreau’s contract, paying $3M of Gaudreau’s salary as a signing bonus in both 2020-21 and 2022-23, the two potential years for CBA negotiations. I’d argue that going further with Nylander’s contract can make a deal appealing for him, and the cap hit more palatable for the Leafs.

8 Year Contract With Signing Bonuses in Potential Lockout Years

2018-19 8,000,000
2019-20 5,600,000 4.6m as bonus
2020-21 8,000,000
2021-22 5,600,000 4.6m as bonus
2022-23 8,000,000
2023-24 8,000,000
2024-25 8,000,000
2025-26 8,000,000 7m as bonus
AAV 7,400,000

So that’s still pricier than we wanted, but it certainly makes an $8M cap hit a bit more attainable. Considering that we’re also skimming almost another $100k off at this point for reasons mentioned in the Capfriendly tweet above, we are getting close to an affordable Nylander.

I also want to draw attention to the bonus I put in the last year. That’s my own personal, “if he’s not going to sign here, make him more tradeable as rental” approach. Criticize it all you want.

Of course, the Leafs and Nylander could have already arrived at bonuses in those years, and it could be other issues holding up the deal. If I was Nylander, I’d probably realize that the Leafs are going to pay Marner more next summer. I get why that sucks for Nylander, so potentially the trade-off if the Leafs aren’t willing to give salary, is to give back some UFA years. If they let Nylander negotiate his UFA contract right when it’s eligible the deal could potentially be done sooner…

5 Year Contract With Signing Bonuses in Potential Lockout Years

2018-19 8,000,000
2019-20 8,000,000
2020-21 5,675,000 4.675m as bonus
2021-22 8,000,000
2022-23 5,675,000 4.675m as bonus
AAV 7,070,000

Neat. We got Nylander’s contract down to where potentially we can live with it. The downside is the Leafs are potentially letting Nylander walk sooner rather than later, and if there’s a lockout, they might not even have the opportunity to deal him as a rental. To me this looks like a very player friendly deal, of course it probably doesn’t do a whole lot for the Leafs. They are giving up a lot in this. Good salary, guaranteed pay in lockouts, and then they either lose Nylander or get taken to the cleaners sooner than hoped.

Recognizing that the Leafs want something out of this too, here’s a compromise. The Leafs get one lower salary year in year one, inline with the Ehlers percentage, before caving for the next six years.

7 Year Contract With Signing Bonuses in Potential Lockout Years

2018-19 6,300,000
2019-20 8,000,000
2020-21 5,600,000 4.6m as bonus
2021-22 8,000,000
2022-23 5,600,000 4.6m as bonus
2023-24 8,000,000
2024-25 8,000,000 7m as bonus
AAV 7,071,429

In reality, if I’m coming to these ideas, they’ve already been tried and exhausted by the people who know what they are doing (at least I really hope so.) The hope here is that the Leafs and the Nylander camp are exploring compromises beyond just splitting the dollar amount down the middle, because if it is that simple, not having Nylander in the lineup right now seems like a slap in the face.

Also in reality, Nylander probably shouldn’t be an $8M player, I feel that is something I let get away from me over this exercise. Earlier this week, I explored what I would be happy with in regards to next contracts for some of the Leafs free agents, and anything in $7.5M-$8M is firmly in the Nylander being more of a trade piece than a long term contract. (Also, because it’s already come up, if Auston Matthews and Marner continue at their pace, I’ll re-evaluate what I have for them.)

(Also, because it’s already come up, if Auston Matthews and Marner continue at their pace, I’ll re-evaluate what I have for them.)

What Do You Think Will Happen?

Since I was nice enough to ask myself this, here’s my response:

The Nylander contract isn’t going to be resolved easily, and we’re going to come down to the 11th hour on November 30th before a deal is struck for a one year deal, leading to us going through this whole farce again next summer on a much grander scale involving Matthews, Marner, and to a lesser extent Gardiner, Kapanen, and Johnsson.

The Leafs will want Nylander to fill some of the massive amount of cap space for the rest of this season, and to add a top six player for nothing but money. And Nylander will want to get paid, and not sit out an entire year. I’d assume the deal will come in around $6M so that there won’t be debates over qualifying Nylander next June.

All of that sounds awful, so let’s just figure this out quickly and start enjoying an even more overwhelming offense.

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  • mst

    Pierre Lubrun surveyed a bunch of rival GMs and agents around the league and they all agreed Nylander’s fair market value was between 6-6.5 million. None would pay him 7 and everyone agreed he wasn’t worth anywhere near 8 or 8.5.

    So if Nylander wants that kind of money, he won’t play this year at all. No rival GM is going to offer him that, and the Leafs can’t even trade him because no GM will want Nylander at those values. And the Leafs aren’t going to screw themselves by paying him that either.

    Nylander will either wake up to the fact and sign a deal at fair market value i.e. 6 mill by 7 years, 6.5 mill for 8 years, 5 mill for 5 years etc or he wont’ play hockey this year. Maybe he can play in Sweden or the KHL but not for 8 mill! Not gonna happen in any league on earth.

    In any event I’m happier with Kapanen anyway. He will score close to as much, kill penalties, back check, and forecheck and do it all for 4 mill long term.

    • Goon

      The idea that no other GM in the league would pay Nylander $7 million is complete nonsense. I guarantee that at least 20 GMs in this league wouldn’t hesitate for a second to sign Nylander to a 7×7 contract.

      8 is definitely too much, but 7 is pretty close to fair market value.

  • T Gombs

    I may be missing something obvious here, but is there a potential to utilize the short term contract space available to the Leafs this year to find a way around the later years of Nylander’s contract? Can you go with a high year 1 offer, say $10MM, and then move down to $6MM in later years?

    To try to answer my own question, I assume this is an issue due to the player not wanting to risk a 1 year contract and that it would be challenged as being collusive or back-diving by the league. I imagine it also makes it more difficult for the Leafs to negotiate 3 big contracts next year. If anyone has the right answer, I’d appreciate it.

  • Matmarwill

    Willie needs to get himself a new agent and tell his father to shut up. If you cant get what you want, go with a short deal and bet on yourself. No one’s paying him 8m aav and he might as well get over it before the season gets too old. Otherwise go play in the khl for a quarter of the doe.