Ny­lan­der re­turns to Leafs on six-year deal

Toronto star will av­er­age $6.9 mil­lion for sea­sons two through six of the pact

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - JOSHUA CLIP­PER­TON

TORONTO — Wil­liam Ny­lan­der’s con­tract im­passe has fi­nally come to an end.

The re­stricted free agent signed a six-year ex­ten­sion with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Satur­day, just be­fore the dead­line of 5 p.m. ET.

The agree­ment car­ries an av­er­age an­nual value of US$10.2 mil­lion this season and $6.9 mil­lion from years two through six.

Ny­lan­der, who was selected eighth over­all by the Leafs in the 2014 draft, had to sign a con­tract by Satur­day’s dead­line in or­der to be el­i­gi­ble to play in the Na­tional Hockey League this season.

“I’m happy for our team. I’m happy for Wil­liam,” Leafs gen­eral man­ager Kyle Dubas said be­fore the team’s 5-3 road win over the Min­ne­sota Wild on Satur­day. “I wish that we were able to get this done be­fore train­ing camp and he was able to be a part of this.

“I think the team’s record right now is a tes­ta­ment to the coach­ing staff and to the play­ers on the group, es­pe­cially that they haven’t re­ally al­lowed this to be­come a dis­trac­tion . ... They’ve had a great start to the season and I’ve learned a lot about the coaches and the play­ers and their abil­ity to (stay fo­cused). I’m very thank­ful for them that they were able to per­form the way they had. I’m ex­cited now to add Wil­liam to the group. He’s go­ing to make us bet­ter.”

Ny­lan­der and the club had been at odds on the terms of a new agree­ment af­ter his en­try-level con­tract ex­pired July 1, with ne­go­ti­a­tions stretch­ing through the sum­mer, into train­ing camp and ul­ti­mately forc­ing the 22-year-old winger to miss 26 games this season.

There were re­ports Ny­lan­der, who re­mained in Eu­rope dur­ing talks be­tween his rep­re­sen­ta­tives and Dubas, was ini­tially ask­ing for $8 mil­lion per season on a long-term deal, with Toronto be­lieved to have been coun­ter­ing with an of­fer in a $6-mil­lion range an­nu­ally.

“Go­ing home,” Ny­lan­der posted to Twit­ter along with a pic­ture of his Leafs’ hockey bag about 30 min­utes af­ter the con­tract was an­nounced.

The son of for­mer NHLer Michael Ny­lan­der was the first of Toronto’s young star for­wards — Aus­ton Matthews and Mitch Marner are the oth­ers — to hit re­stricted free agency.

“I think at the end it be­comes a lit­tle bit fran­tic when you go right down to the dead­line at the very end and you’re try­ing to make sure ev­ery­thing gets in,” Dubas said.

“The worst-case sce­nario would have been a tech­ni­cal glitch that pre­vented this in go­ing past the 5 o’clock dead­line. No real emo­tion. Just stuck to our process and worked to­gether with (Ny­lan­der’s agent) Lewis Gross and Wil­liam to com­plete it just un­der the wire.”

Leafs head coach Mike Bab­cock re­mained con­fi­dent through­out ne­go­ti­a­tions that Ny­lan­der would even­tu­ally re­turn to the fold.

“Kyle (Dubas) and (as­sis­tant GM Bran­don Prid­ham) and the guys did a real good job in get­ting that done,” Bab­cock said af­ter a 5-3 win over the Wild.

“I know I wouldn’t have the pa­tience for that kind of thing my­self, so it’s good they were able to do it. Willy was ec­static af­ter. He wants to be back here and we want him back here. It’ll take us four or five days to get him in the lineup, but as soon as we can we’ll get him in.”

Ny­lan­der is com­ing off back-to-back 61-point sea­sons, in­clud­ing a 2017-18 cam­paign that saw him score 20 goals and add 41 as­sists. He had 49 points at even strength, with a team-high 34 as­sists.

The Cal­gary-born Swede has 48 goals and 87 as­sists for 135 points in 185 ca­reer games. Ny­lan­der has added two goals and six as­sists in 13 play­off out­ings.

When asked if he ever thought the deal was not go­ing to hap­pen, Dubas said, “It’s tough to say. I think we al­ways tried to stay op­ti­mistic and have faith that our of­fers were fair and that they were com­ing from a good place as well and that, in the end, him missing a full season and hav­ing it go across 5 o’clock to­day wouldn’t have been good for any­body. Not for the team, not for Wil­liam.

“You al­ways kind of main­tain that faith. If it gets closer to the dead­line, you start to maybe doubt it a lit­tle bit. But in the end, we’re happy that it did end with him sign­ing, for sure.”

Af­ter the Leafs lured cen­tre John Tavares to Toronto with a seven-year, $77-mil­lion con­tract in free agency this sum­mer, Bab­cock mused about a top line of Ny­lan­der, Matthews and vet­eran winger Patrick Mar­leau.

But Kasperi Ka­pa­nen, one of Ny­lan­der’s good friends, oc­cu­pied the right side on that unit for most of the early part of the sched­ule un­til Matthews suf­fered a left shoul­der in­jury on Oct. 27 that ruled him out of ac­tion for 14 games.

Matthews re­turned to the lineup Wed­nes­day, scor­ing twice and adding an as­sist in a 5-3 vic­tory over the San Jose Sharks.

Toronto, a pop­u­lar pre-season pick to hoist the Stan­ley Cup this spring thanks in large part to its ex­plo­sive of­fen­sive tal­ent up front, had a record of 18-8-0 head­ing into Satur­day’s game against Min­ne­sota and was third in the over­all stand­ings.

Matthews and Marner, a pair of 21 year olds whose en­try-level con­tracts are set to ex­pire next sum­mer, have said they’re talk­ing with the Leafs about new deals.

Matthews could be look­ing for some­thing in the neigh­bour­hood of the

$12.5 mil­lion per year Edmonton su­per­star Con­nor Mc­David takes home, while Marner’s ball­park might land some­where in the $10-mil­lion range of Buf­falo cap­tain Jack Eichel.

GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO

Wil­liam Ny­lan­der, pic­tured, missed 26 games as he ne­go­ti­ated a con­tract.He will re­turn to the lineup very soon, pre­dicted Toronto coach Mike Bab­cock.

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