Nylander, Leafs’ standoff entering final phase
The end of the stalemate between Maple Leafs forward William Nylander and general manager Kyle Dubas is getting closer, if only because the calendar says so.
Nylander has until Dec. 1 to sign a contract — filed with the NHL’s central registry by 5 p.m. that day — or he will be ineligible to play in the NHL this season.
The Leafs, who opened their so-called “window” to winning with the summertime signing of free agent John Tavares, would most likely need Nylander or whatever assets he can be traded for in order to get by Boston and Tampa in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
So the staredown is on.
The question is, will either side blink?
“It’s a tough situation, and I think it’s really going to get interesting,” says Brian Lawton, who has been a player, agent and GM in the NHL and now works for NHL Network. “It’s up to Kyle Dubas to really listen closely, to create flexibility among his team. He can’t get too focused on, ‘It has to be this way.’
“If you don’t have some ability to compromise, you’re in trouble.”
Both sides have put a cone of silence on talks, though they have intimated they’re willing to outlast the other. At this point, they may just be killing time until the end of November, waiting to see what the other guy does.
“I think by Nov. 25 you’ll see the parties reach out to each other,” says Lawton. “Both parties realize there’s an impending deadline, and they’re kind of killing time.”
The two sides are reportedly still a sizeable amount of money apart. Nylander is said to be asking for at least US$8 million per season on a long-term deal, $6.5 million on a short-term. The Leafs are said to be offering about $2 million less on both fronts.
“They’ve got to get it somewhere in between,” says former GM Doug MacLean, now working for Sportsnet. “If you slightly overpay, and you can get him done, you can still move him when your cap crunch hits for reasonably good assets. And by then maybe he’s not the guy you want to move.”
This is Dubas’s first season as an NHL GM and his first troubling contract situation. On the one hand, he likes the player, respects his talent and wants to win.
On the other, he can’t be seen to be soft, or to cave in. The book on him is being written as agents assess his abilities.
“I think he’s got to make the statement, either: ‘You can’t do this to me,’ or ‘We’re only going to pay you what you’re worth,’ or ‘We’re not going to give you more just because we’re the Toronto Maple Leafs,’ ” says former NHL GM Neil Smith, now working for ESPN.
Dubas has publicly said he will not trade Nylander. At the time, it sounded like an assurance to a player who would be worried he’d be traded for an asset the team might need more, namely a right-handed defenceman.
But, at this point, it could also sound like a threat: Sign or don’t play, because there won’t be a trade.
If Nylander misses the season and the Leafs retain his rights then his bargaining power will not have changed. He won’t get the minimum 10 NHL games needed to have arbitration rights.
“He’s put himself in a spot where he has absolutely no rights, he’s sitting there hoping they’re going to pay him what he wants. But he has no rights,” says Smith. “I’ve never understood a player or agent where they have no rights but think the team can’t do without him.
“I’m a real logic-based person and it defies logic that you could possibly lose the entire season and never get it back and be in the same position again next season.”
Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander has until Dec. 1 to sign a contract or he’ll be ineligible to play in the NHL this season.