Toronto Maple Leafs fans are going to have a long summer, especially as they wait to hear news about how the William Nylander negotiations are going. When asked where the Maple Leafs are at with the Nylander extension, David Pagnotta of the NHL Network said that things are not even close with Nylander
“I’ll tell you one thing, talking to a bunch of people around this situation, first of all, William Nylander is not close to an extension. He’s looking for upwards of $10 million a season on a full eight-year term and the Leafs are sitting around that $8.5 million mark. They’ve got some work to do to kind of bridge that gap. The other thing I can tell you, I would not be surprised, I would be surprised, excuse me, if Auston Matthews puts pen to paper before Nylander does, at least for the time being.”
– David Pagnotta
It is possible that Treliving may prioritize finalizing a contract extension negotiation with Nylander even as he is also dealing with trying to finalize a deal with Auston Matthews. It seems there will be good news on that front. Keeping in mind that a Matthews deal will cost close to $14 million per season thanks in large part to the expected rise in the salary cap for the 2024-25 season, add in the fact Nylander wants in the $10 million range, there will need to be movement if Treliving wants to keep the core 4 together.
The Maple Leafs will need to work overtime to create enough salary cap space to ensure they do keep them together. There are discussions surrounding potential options such as buying out Matt Murray or exploring trade options involving T.J. Brodie. But moving Brodie out will hurt the defense as he brings some snarl to the blue line, something they desperately need as Jake Muzzin is not expected to return off of LTIR.
Buying Murray out, however, makes sense, because he is in the last year of his contract and it would cost the Leafs only $687500 this season, and $2 million in 2024-25 when the cap is expected to leap by $4 million from this season’s $83.5 million. An added bonus for Leafs’ fans, the Ottawa Senators would be on the hook to pay for some of the buyout as well, $229167 this season, and $666667 in 2024-25. It’s nothing that will cripple their salary cap structure, but still funny as hell.
Nylander Pricing Himself Out of Toronto
Nylander’s last contract was for six years at $45 million, which added up to an annual average value (AAV) of just under $7 million. That can now be seen as an absolute bargain considering he just finished a 40-goal season and has been one of the Leafs’ best offensive producers over the last few years in the playoffs. Even with a Murray buyout, given the state of the franchise’s terrible cap management in the previous management group, Treliving is left to deal with significant fallout. It makes sense that Toronto would want Nylander to remain close to his current cap hit, remaining around the $8 million mark. That said, the winger’s $10 million demand is looking more likely after several successful seasons in which he was one of their most consistent forwards.
There will be demands for term deals for Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi after this season to add into the mix, especially if they play that gritty style the Leafs have been missing in their top six. If Treliving can’t find a way to fit Nylander under the cap, it will be time to break off a piece of the Core 4 to keep the Three’s Company together. With salary cap space at a premium, even with the increases.
Some may look to Alex DeBrincat as a comparable. Both are scoring wingers, right? Yes, they are, but Nylander has been more consistent having been a steady 30-plus goal scorer in the regular season and a point-per-game producer in the playoffs. So the contract demands at $10 million still make sense, but a trade does as well. Except for the return in a Nylander deal would have to be far more than what Ottawa accepted for DeBrincat. A 25-goal scorer, a late first-round pick, a mid-round pick, and a so-so defense prospect would be woefully undervalued for Nylander, but if he is willing to hold out as he did as an RFA, Treliving would need to pull the trigger before camp to avoid a significant dip in trade value.
Sign him or trade him, Treliving will need to decide if he can reverse the curse he had in Calgary where he lost his best players in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. Or continue his good fortune in turning a losing battle into a great trade return when he sent Tkachuk to Calgary for Mackenzie Weegar and Jonathan Huberdeau.
This story line will become a better soap opera this summer than anything on TV now.