EV­ERY­BODY HAPPY NOW?

Ny­lan­der is. Dubas, too. And so are Leafs fans af­ter a 5-3 win over the Wild

Sunday Sports - - FRONT PAGE - KOSHAN, TRAIKOS, SIM­MONS

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A re­lieved William Ny­lan­der has a mes­sage for Leafs Na­tion.

“I can’t wait to be back,” Ny­lan­der said in a phone in­ter­view with the Sun, an hour af­ter he signed a six-year con­tract with the Maple Leafs on Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon. “It has been a crazy ride. I wish it would have been done ear­lier, but I’m very happy to be back with the best fans in the league. I’m very ex­cited.”

Ny­lan­der is ex­pected to travel to Toronto on Sun­day and re-join his team­mates soon af­ter. When he plays in his first game re­mains to be de­ter­mined, but there’s lit­tle doubt the 22-year-old star winger has been buoyed by the Leafs’ suc­cess in 2018-19, which in­cludes 18 wins in their first 26 games prior to play­ing the Min­nesota Wild on Sat­ur­day night.

“I think it’s amaz­ing,” Ny­lan­der said. “I can’t wait to get on the ice with them and start play­ing games. It has been crazy watch­ing them from home. They are dom­i­nat­ing ev­ery game. It’s amaz­ing to see the guys step up. It’s what great play­ers do.”

It will be a happy Ny­lan­der who re­turns to Toronto. The con­tract, with an an­nual av­er­age value of slightly over $6.95 mil­lion US, is good for both sides. The term of six years es­pe­cially gives Ny­lan­der some peace of mind.

“That was some­thing I wanted,” Ny­lan­der said. “I didn’t want a bridge deal. I want to stay in Toronto with all the play­ers that we have and we have a great team.

“I didn’t want to risk it by sign­ing a bridge deal and not be­ing able to stay, if that was go­ing to hap­pen.”

Ny­lan­der in­di­cated the past few days were some­what nerve-wrack­ing as the dead­line of 5 p.m. on Sat­ur­day loomed, though he knows the at-times tense ne­go­ti­a­tions are part of the busi­ness.

“It was a learn­ing process for sure,” Ny­lan­der said. “I never thought it would take this long to come to a deal and that it would go down to the last what­ever it was, five, 10 min­utes be­fore the dead­line. That was an ex­pe­ri­ence for sure I will never for­get.

“Ev­ery­thing worked out good for both sides, so there is noth­ing to be bit­ter about. You want to be play­ing from the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, but things hap­pen for a rea­son and I am just so happy that it’s over.”

HAN­NAH FOS­LIEN/AP

Maple Leafs’ William Ny­lan­der tweeted a pic­ture of his hockey bag shortly af­ter his new deal was an­nounced.

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