Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas boarded a flight to Switzerland earlier this week to talk to his lone restricted free agent as their contract standoff continues. What happens next is up to William Nylander.
Nylander’s holdout was a big talking point all off-season, and chatter has only gotten louder as the season has gotten underway. Yet we still don’t know much about how negotiations are going between the two sides.
“That explains a little bit of why Kyle Dubas made the big gesture to go to Switzerland this week to sit down with William Nylander and be able to maybe clear the air a little bit, have a face-to-face conversation where he could explain why the Leafs are in the situation they’re in vis-a-vis the cap and why they maybe can’t pay him as much as he would like to get on a long-term deal,” Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston explained during Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “And also to tell him, ‘Look, you’re an important part of what we want. We want to keep you here,’ and maybe to try to calm some of the waters because of all the speculation. I think it really puts the ball into William Nylander’s court about what he wants to do.”
Nylander, who is staying in hockey shape by practising with Dornbirner EC of Austria’s top-tier league, has said previously that he wants to stay in Toronto and that he’d like to do so by inking a long-term deal with the club. But it’s become increasingly clear that there’s still a large divide between the centreman’s ask and what the team is willing to shell out.
The word “trade” has been quietly pushed around throughout the process as speculation ramps up, and while Johnston explained that the two sides are not currently at that point, it could be a possibility in the near future.
“They’re looking basically at a short-term deal now, if he’ll sign one of those,” explained Johnston. “And if not, it will get to the point, guys, where I think we’re looking at a trade here. But it’s not there right now, and that was part of the message: ‘We want to keep you, William. What’s it going to take to stay?’”
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes next week could reveal a lot about where this situation is headed. Nick Kypreos also chimed in:
“How hard are you going to dig your heels in? I think before we start hearing any talks about talks about any trade, I think he first has to show how much he’s willing to put the season on the line,” Kypreos said. “If that’s the case, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to start hearing negotiations with other teams in the KHL, try to recoup the lost money. But he has to really show for sure that he’s in it for the long haul.”
The timeline on this one is clearly tricky. Most extension negotiations don’t bleed into training camp, let alone the regular season. And now that Nick Ritchie has signed a three-year pact with the Anaheim Ducks, Nylander is officially the last man standing. The only hard deadline here is Dec. 1 — that’s the date by which Nylander must be under contract if he wants to suit up at all this season.