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Pros and cons of William Nylander’s new Toronto Maple Leafs extension
By James Reeve1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs have officially signed star forward William Nylander to a new, eight-year contract extension, bringing to an end one of the key storylines of the team’s season.
Nylander, who is at the peak of his career right now, will remain in Toronto until the conclusion of the 2031-32 season, carrying an annual cap hit of $11.5 million.
Much has been said about the Leafs getting Nylander’s future locked up long-term, both positive and negative, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the deal and what it means for the Toronto Maple Leafs moving forward.
The first, and most obvious, pro for this new deals is that the Leafs have William Nylander effectively signed for the rest of his professional career.
While the Swedish winger has been a polarising figure since being drafted by the Leafs seventh overall in the 2015 Draft, he has truly come into his element over the last few seasons and his new deal comes at the very peak of his performances.
At the time of writing, Nylander has registered 54 points in just 37 games, which puts him on pace to smash his career highs in goals, assists and total points across a season – which stands at 40, 47 and 87 respectively, his totals in all three categories last season.
At present, Nylander could score between 46 and 47 goals at his current pace, with 73 assists for a combined total of 120 points if he can maintain his current pace.
Nylander is an elite player and has continued to improve in each of the past three years and has truly cemented his place among the Core Four of the team and is no longer viewed as the last of the bunch, which many considered for some time after his drawn-out contract negotiation after his Entry-Level Contract expired.
Having the 27-year-old locked up for the future, during the team’s clear window to compete for the Stanley Cup, is a smart move and keeps one of their best assets around.
While many will complain about the high cap hit, the NHL’s projections for the cap suggest that it will increase rapidly over the next few years, meaning that his impact on the team’s ability to build a regular contending team will be lessened with every passing year.
Naturally, the cap hit is the biggest concern regarding the deal for a number of reasons. Firstly, while the cap is set to increase in the future, it’s still unclear by how much and how quickly, which means there could still be a cap crunch for the Leafs after they also handed Auston Matthews a sizeable pay rise with his four-year, $13.25 million AAV extension.
With Nylander and Matthews’ salaries both leaping up at the same time, it could negate a cap increase of less than $5 million and leave the Leafs needing to seek out bargains throughout the rest of the roster to simply ice a team each and every night.
The team’s window to win is now, and the need for flexibility is fairly high for a team that has struggled to manage the cap with contracts that take up a large chunk of space, leaving a lot of questions over a number of areas of the roster that has had to rely heavily on calling up players from the AHL to fill gaps throughout the season.
The cost of Nylander’s new deal could also have an impact on the team’s negotiations with another of its stars once July 1st roles around: Mitch Marner.
Marner will be looking for a pay rise and, while he has not had the impact expected of him this season, historically he has been the team’s top point producer and he will argue that a blip does not represent his overall body of work, with the 26-year-old Canadian still averaging just over a point per game in a down year.
Marner will likely expect a deal greater than Nylander’s, which pushes it dangerously close to Matthews’ figure, which the team will certainly balk at if he tries to push, and the risk the Leafs take is that they might be priced out of re-signing Marner at the cost of bringing Nylaner back at his current cost.
Whether via a forced trade or through free agency, the Leafs could lose Marner if the cap situation does not increase at the desired rate, and losing such an important part of the Core Four would have a significantly detrimental impact on the team’s chances of competing for the cup.
With that in mind, there is a lingering viewpoint amongst the fanbase that the Toronto Maple Leafs are a team that cannot win any contract negotiations with its stars, with other teams seemingly able to land players of a similar level for a cut-rate price compared to the deals that have been handed out so far.
The question some fans may ask is how can this team win the cup if they can’t even win negotiations and build a roster with players willing to take a ‘hometown discount’ with the view of creating a team that can add higher-end talent throughout the line-up as a result.
Overall, though, the Toronto Maple Leafs should be very happy in the knowledge that William Nylander’s long-term future is secure and he will be donning the blue and white for the next eight seasons after this one.
John Tavares’ cap hit is another factor that should make Nylander’s deal more palatable, with the team captain expected to take a significantly reduced deal once his current contract expires in 2025.
Tavares, who will be 34 by the time his deal ends, will surely take a deal below $6 million a year to see out his career in his home town and still have a chance to compete for the cup in the process. If the Leafs can get his cap hit as low as possible, it can offset any increases that the other core forwards receive on their new deals.
There’s also time for the Leafs to figure things out where Tavares and Marner are concerned, so this season isn’t even the last opportunity for the Core Four to try and win together, even if they are forced to accept some changes need to be made before their respective deals are up.
The Leafs rely heavily on the Core Four, so having half of them locked into lengthy deals already will be a weight off of GM Brad Treliving’s shoulders, and with the positive outlook of the cap, there is every reason to believe that the rest of the core will follow suit at an appropriate time.
For now, just enjoy having Nylander on the Leafs, playing the best hockey of his career, and hope that the business side of things catches up to the potential the team has when they are firing on all cylinders.
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