As William Nylander‘s contract situation with the Toronto Maple Leafs creeps closer towards the Dec. 1 playing eligibility deadline, he at least has one prominent peer who understands and supports his stance.
Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Nikita Kucherov was in a very similar situation ahead of the 2016-17 season as a restricted free agent, holding out for a new contract while missing all of training camp and the pre-season.
Unlike Nylander, however, Kucherov folded to the Lightning’s demands and signed a three-year bridge deal worth just $4.766 million per year.
Now Kucherov sees a lot of himself in Nylander and realizes the mistake he made in his own negotiation and supports Nylander in his.
“I would have done the same thing,” Kucherov told The Athletic’s Joe Smith. “I don’t know what’s happening right now there [in Toronto], but to have a guy like him on any team, every team wants him.
“He’s still going to be a great player. Great playmaker. Great goal-scorer. Everybody has their opinion on him, but as soon as he gets to play, he’s going to prove to everyone — they’ll just be talking about hockey. If he thinks he’s right. Good for him.”
Nylander, 22, is coming off back-to-back 61-point seasons, similar production to the 65-point breakout campaign Kucherov enjoyed before he signed his bridge deal.
If Nylander and the Leafs are unable to come to an accord with the Dec. 1 deadline quickly approaching, there’s a chance he could be traded, unless they actually are willing to let him sit out the entire season and potentially come back to the negotiation table with Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner’s restricted free agencies also needing addressing.
“If [Nylander] is not playing this year, everybody next year will want him on their team,” Kucherov added. “You go around the league and look at the contracts. It’s not just for him. He’s an unbelievable player. I’m sure he’s going to get paid a lot.”