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The Countdown: 5 Maple Leafs in tough to stay if William Nylander re-signs

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
3 months ago
William Nylander has arrived as an NHL superstar. What he’s been able to accomplish so far this season has been very entertaining and seeing how well he handled himself at the NHL’s Global Series, in front of so many family and friends, and more impressively, with so many distractions away from the ice, his week was truly remarkable.
Nylander has certainly increased his value with his historic start to the 2023-24 season and it’s going to be interesting to see how high his average annual value will travel between now and when pen hits paper. Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving would be wise to get a deal completed as soon as possible.
With a hard salary cap world, balancing the books is a very tough job in the NHL and nobody knows this better than the Maple Leafs. CapFriendly indicates Toronto has 12 players signed for next season and has a projected $34.2 million in expected cap space. Nylander is going to eat up a huge chunk of this, there’s no doubt about that, so now the question becomes who’s likely to not be a Leaf because of it. For today’s countdown, here are five Maple Leafs who could be directly impacted by Nylander’s contract extension:

Tyler Bertuzzi

While Nylander is priority #1, Bertuzzi could also be looking for a contract extension and while things didn’t start great, as head coach Sheldon Keefe praised, a little patience goes a long way. Bertuzzi has been lights out of late and the second line was the main reason why the Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings in Stockholm. The best second line in the NHL? Certainly creeping their way into the conversation, if not already there.
Bertuzzi is someone Treliving had circled since day one on the job and considering the fit for what the team needs more of, yes, he would be smart to get something done with Bertuzzi’s reps. Regardless of desire, Nylander’s extension talks are the main priority, so don’t expect to see anyone else signing a contract extension before #88.
Bertuzzi is someone the Leafs should try to re-sign, however, if Nylander’s next deal is as big as it’s expected to be, ‘Bert’ might price himself out of Toronto.

John Klingberg

It’s been a whirlwind start for Klingberg as a Maple Leaf and for all the wrong reasons. There was a risk in signing him for $4.1 million, but Treliving felt he was safe by just handing out a one-year deal. It turns out a lingering injury appears to be holding him back from playing for now, and this could potentially keep him out for the season. It’s been a disaster through and through to this point and once Nylander’s salary goes from $6.9 million to potentially $10.5-11, there’s little chance the Gothenburg native is in the cards. More importantly, let’s hope he can get back to 100% healthy and live a normal life outside of the rink.
Another thing to consider here is Conor Timmins, who looked like a young Drew Doughty in the preseason. He’s coming back from injury soon and can play the role of right-handed offensive defenceman for the Leafs, provided he stays healthy. He also happens to be signed for the 2024-25 season at a reasonable $1.1 million against the cap. Thanks again, Kyle Dubas.

T.J. Brodie

Speaking of defencemen, T.J. Brodie is a pending unrestricted free agent and will need to take a substantial pay cut if he wants to stick around as a Leaf. His cap hit sits at $5 million at the moment. All indications to this point, Brodie doesn’t want to go anywhere. He knows Treliving well and the two have negotiated a contract in Calgary back in 2014 when as Flames GM, Treliving signed the Chatham, ON native to a five-year $23.2 million contract.
Defensive defencemen aren’t unicorns and can sometimes come in on the cheap. Brodie is certainly a candidate as someone who could be replaced next season as Treliving is likely to focus on finding some strength and size for his blue line.

Ilya Samsonov

Treliving walked into a solid goaltending situation in Toronto. Having two very capable goalies in Samsonov and Joseph Woll for a combined $4.31 million against the cap this season is something many GMs across the league are jealous of. Samsonov will want a long-term extension this summer and if he’s looking for a massive pay hike, he may be wearing another jersey next season. Is Tristan Jarry’s contract of 5 x $5.3 million a reasonable comparable? Likely. Do the Maple Leafs want to go that high with a slightly younger Woll looking poised to be a 1-A starter and with 22-year-old prospect Dennis Hildeby turning heads in the AHL with the Marlies? Nylander’s contract is going to make it tough for everyone to return next season and one of the biggest changes seen could be in the net.

Max Domi

Like Bertuzzi, Domi is very much in the same boat. He signed a ‘prove yourself’ contract in hopes of landing something longer-term. There’s no doubt Domi wants to stick around Toronto and alongside Nick Robertson and Calle Jarnkrok, could create a very sustainable and effective third line for the Leafs heading into next season.
At $3 million against the cap this season, would Domi be open to staying flat on his AAV and signing on for another four or five years? Perhaps, and this is something that could potentially work. But again, everything is going to come down to just how much Nylander makes on his big-ticket and what’s left for Treliving and company to work with.
There’s little doubt where the priorities lie for management, and considering how much Nylander’s game has progressed over the past couple of seasons, the fanbase morale will plummet if he doesn’t re-sign. Treliving would be wise to pay the new King of Stockholm, then see where the chips fall from there.

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