On the morning the Winnipeg Jets announced a $42-million, seven-year extension with Nikolaj Ehlers – a player taken one spot behind Nylander in the 2014 NHL Draft – the Leafs winger indicated that he wouldn’t be comfortable if talks were held while he was focused on playing.
“Well, I’m a guy who just wants to: If we do it, (either) before the season or after,” Nylander told Sportsnet prior to Wednesday’s opener at Bell MTS Place. “We’re just trying to focus on the team, and the way I’m playing during the year.”
Ehlers and Nylander should provide an interesting case study because of the different ways the Jets and Leafs chose to handle their second contracts.
In addition to being drafted close together, they’ve produced at a similar rate – with Ehlers holding an edge in goals (25-22) and points (64-61) last season, but Nylander holding a better points-per-game average (.72-.66) in the NHL overall.
It’s no easy task to negotiate with a high-level player who still has one year left on his entry-level contract. You’re working off a small sample size and building in a calculated bet that the player is being locked in at a lower cap hit than he’d be able to command after his third season.
“They’re different,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said of second deals. “There are different nuances that come into play. When it falls into place as quickly as it did (with Ehlers), it’s exciting.”
Like Nylander, the 21-year-old Dane had no interest in negotiating with Winnipeg after the regular season started. Instead, everything came together in a matter of days at the end of training camp.
“I didn’t want to worry about it during the season,” said Ehlers. “If it was going to come out there’d be a lot of talk and I didn’t want that. Not for me, not for the team, not for the organization.
“They wanted that as well, so I’m glad we got it done.”
There is no evidence to suggest that Nylander is bothered by having to wait a little longer for his big deal. He and linemate Auston Matthews were dominant in pre-season – combining for nine goals and 14 points in four games.
Should Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello reach out to agent Lewis Gross in the months ahead, Nylander knows how he’ll handle things on his end.
“Yeah, I’ll just tell my agent to not talk to me,” he said.