William Nylander slump could save Maple Leafs money in the long term

The Hockey Night panel takes a look at the biggest stories from around the league, with the New York Islanders deciding what to do with John Tavares and how the Maple Leafs might not mind William Nylander being mired in a scoring slump.

William Nylander has just one goal in the past 17 games and his current slump may impact how the Toronto Maple Leafs proceed with contract negotiations.

The young Swede is a pending restricted free agent and while at one point early in the season it appeared the eighth-overall pick from 2014 was a lock to earn a long-term extension—he had nine points in his first eight games of the season—Nylander’s second NHL contract might now end up being some type of bridge deal instead.

Nylander’s recent cold streak has been “creating some issues in the near term for Mike Babcock, but in the longer term for the Toronto Maple Leafs this might end up not being the worst thing in the world,” Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston said Saturday during the Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada.

The Maple Leafs had the opportunity to sign Nylander to a long-term deal following his 2016-17 rookie campaign in which he scored 22 goals and 61 points in 81 games yet general manager Lou Lamoriello decided to wait.

“It just shows you in the platform season how important your performance is to what that second deal looks like and obviously in William Nylander’s case if this (slump) continues he’s looking at a much lower deal in terms of money and potentially not the long-term deal he had coveted,” Johnston explained.

The Maple Leafs are currently operating at the salary cap limit but could free up some cash by July 1 depending on what management decides to do with James van Riemsdyk ($4.25-million AAV), Tyler Bozak ($4.2-million AAV), Leo Komarov ($2.95-million AAV), Roman Polak ($1.1-million AAV) and Dominic Moore ($1-million AAV), all of whom are pending unrestricted free agents.

July 1, 2018 will also be when Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner both become eligible to sign contract extensions. Matthews will presumably earn a long-term deal reminiscent of the eight-year, $100-million extension Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid signed this past July, while Marner could be in a similar position as Nylander.

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