The Toronto Maple Leafs hit the ice Tuesday night in Lucan, Ont., for a Kraft Hockeyville pre-season game against the Ottawa Senators.
Restricted free agent forward William Nylander still needs a new contract, so he wasn’t dressed for the contest, but Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas spoke to Sportsnet during in the first intermission to update how negotiations are going.
“I still have the same level of confidence that we can accomplish what we set out to do,” Dubas told David Amber and Nick Kypreos. “It’s our full intention that all these young guys are here for a long time and the impediment right now is we’re trying to go through a process with them, with [agent] Lewis Gross and William Nylander and their camp and we’ll continue to work away at it.”
Dubas remains hopeful the team can sign Nylander prior to the team’s Oct. 3 regular-season debut at home against the rival Montreal Canadiens, but the GM isn’t losing sight of the franchise’s long-term goal of winning its first Stanley Cup championship in more than 50 years.
“We’ve got to be very mindful of our process here because of the impact that it’s going to have on all of our young, core pieces and we’re trying to make it all fit and sustain this as long as we can and they all know that,” Dubas added.
The Maple Leafs currently have more than $13 million in cap space to utilize in 2018-19. Whatever Nylander’s new cap hit ends up being will eat into that figure but different challenges begin to emerge when you look to next season.
Forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson are among the team’s pending RFAs, while defenceman Jake Gardiner is entering a contract year before being eligible to hit the open market next July 1.
Matthews, Marner and Gardiner should garner sizeable cap hits on their next deals so every dollar the team saves on Nylander’s contract can be put towards next season and beyond.
“We’re continuing to have dialogue with them and it’s obviously our goal to have William here as soon as possible,” Dubas added. “They’ve been very good throughout the process and we’ll continue to work away at it. Obviously we’re a better team with William here and it’s our goal to get him here.”
Nylander is among five notable RFAs still in need of a contract — forwards Sam Reinhart of the Buffalo Sabres, Nick Ritchie of the Anaheim Ducks, Miles Wood of the New Jersey Devils, and Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Shea Theodore are the others.