Nylander is currently practising with Dornbirner EC of Austria’s top tier league to stay in shape but he must sign an NHL contract before Dec. 1 otherwise he won’t be eligible to play in 2018-19. Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas flew over to Austria this week to meet with the star forward in person yet by all accounts both sides remain far apart in negotiations.
The holdout has lasted long enough into the season that rival NHL executives are starting to share their opinions on the contract dispute.
“William Nylander is not worth what William Nylander thinks he’s worth,” one Western Conference executive told Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star.
Rival executives talking about players on other teams is taboo – it could also be tampering depending on what is said – but under the condition of anonymity four of them gave their thoughts on the Nylander situation exclusively to McGran.
“I know Michael [Nylander] from his playing days, and he has a different view of what is right,” a second Western Conference executive said of Nylander’s father. “But how much is enough?”
The elder Nylander, whose 920-game NHL career was split between seven teams, notoriously drove a hard bargain and has reportedly been in his eldest son’s ear.
Both camps have kept a tight lid on negotiations.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported this past weekend on Hockey Night in Canada that the Maple Leafs do not intend to trade the forward and Nylander himself had not yet requested a trade. Kypreos also said he was told there was a four-year contract offer on the table that is “well under $20 million in total” meaning Nylander’s proposed salary cap hit would fall somewhere between $4 million and $5 million annually.
There are other reports suggesting Nylander is hoping to land a long-term deal that would pay him something akin to the huge deal Leon Draisaitl inked with the Edmonton Oilers after his third year as a pro.
As this Hockey-Reference comparison chart shows, Nylander’s production in his first three seasons was nearly identical to Draisaitl’s.
Draisaitl was rewarded with an $8.5-million cap hit, an average annual value few think Nylander will receive from Dubas and company.
“The Leafs are right,” one Eastern Conference executive told McGran. “There is no way any team in the NHL is going to pay Nylander $8 million.”
Another Eastern conference exec added: “At $6.5 million, I don’t think he’d be underpaid.”
The Maple Leafs are off to a 6-2-0 start without Nylander and are the league’s highest-scoring team thus far. Kasperi Kapanen has shone on Toronto’s top line in Nylander’s absence, putting up eight points (all at even strength) in eight games while playing with Auston Mathews and Patrick Marleau.