Nylander not rushing new deal: ‘It would take a lot for me to want to leave Toronto’

Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek speak with Maple Leafs' William Nylander about his contract situation including his desire to stay in Toronto, and not rushing to get the deal done.

The laugh is William’s tell.

Offered a chance to address the swirling scuttlebutt around the state of his contract demands — his reported unwillingness to accept an extension carrying anything less than eight figures on an AAV; his desire to climb into the tax bracket of his more handsomely compensated star teammates — William Nylander lets out a laugh during Wednesday’s 32 Thoughts interview.

“The contract stuff, that’s just for Brad [Treliving] and my agent to dig into. I mean, both sides, I think, know where each other are at. And right now, we’ll just see what happens,” Nylander dodged during his sit-down in Stockholm with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek.

“I mean, I still have one more year left, so I don’t really understand what the big rush is either to get a deal done. I mean, I got one more year left, we have a great team, and then we go from there.”

Nylander is not wrong. And he is in no hurry.

The laugh assures his audience that Nylander has no panic while slow-playing his hand as one of the most coveted impending unrestricted free agents of July 1.

Heck, he’s happy to report to camp and play for the only NHL city he’s known and the only one he plans to represent.

“I still have one more year, and I know how much I love it there. And it would take a lot for me to want to leave Toronto. Like, that’s a place I want to be at. And that’s where my mind’s at for the coming year and for the future. I’m not thinking about being anywhere else,” said Nylander, comfortable with the status quo.

“Well, you look at the organization. They take care of you better than any other team in the league, and the staff, the trainers and the equipment staff, and all the people around you just make sure that you’re given the best stuff to succeed and have success.

“And then you’ve got the fans that are incredible. And then the city. I mean, just basically this is where I spent the most time in my life. So, this is home for me.”

The 40-goal man is under contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs through 2023-24 at a team-friendly $6.96 million, he holds modest security in the form of a 10-team no-trade list, and his impending free agency rests more than 10 months away.

Both Nylander and agent Lewis Gross have shown a willingness to take negotiations down to the wire in the past.

And there is reasonable suspicion they would prefer fellow 2024 UFA Auston Matthews to sign his Leafs extension first — a deal surely to raise the salary ceiling not just for Toronto’s dressing room but for the league.

So, it should be of no great surprise that club GM Treliving would prefer not having such an integral prime talent like Nylander linger as an “own rental” too long.

“The sooner the better, right? I mean, the idea is when you know where things are at, you can plan better, right? When you know it’s gonna be raining tomorrow, maybe pack a jacket. So, having clarity always helps,” Treliving said in late June.

“I’m confident we’re gonna get both players signed until proven otherwise…. The dialogue has been good, and you keep working away at it.”

Good dialogue, big gap.

(Reached by Sportsnet on Wednesday to respond to Nylander’s interview, Treliving declined comment on contract matters.)

Summer signings of stud point-producers in Nylander’s age range like Timo Meier (eight years at an $8.8 million cap hit), Sebastian Aho (eight years at $9.75 million), and Alex DeBrincat (four years at $7.875 million) have stirred anticipation among members of Leafs Nation for clarity on Matthews and Nylander.

But while a few key 2024 UFAs have been quick to commit long-term to their current teams (Aho in Carolina, Tom Wilson in Washington, Brandon Hagel in Tampa Bay), it’s far from unusual for a star to tread lightly into such a lockup.

Last season, Nathan MacKinnon waited until Sept. 20 to re-sign with Colorado. Dylan Larkin re-upped in Detroit on March 1. And David Pastrnak, Nylander’s longtime friend, took it all the way to March 2 with Boston.

Nylander told the podcast he was “not too worried” about getting traded out of Toronto this summer.

And asked directly if any part of him is concerned an extension won’t work out, he responded: “That’s for a later day and after next season. So, I’m not worried about that right now. Like, this is where I want to be at, and I’m just focusing right now and getting ready to have the best year of my career and helping the team to reach our goal.

“So, there’s lots of time to get something done.”

In truth, if there is urgency here, it falls on Treliving, who is not so far removed from getting burned in free agency by another Gross client, Johnny Gaudreau.

Gaudreau professed love for the market that drafted him and still left Treliving’s Calgary Flames for zero return as a free agent in 2022.

No one is questioning whether Nylander makes the Maple Leafs a better team.


What is worth questioning: Can you build a Stanley Cup winner in the salary-cap era with four forwards earning upwards of $10 million apiece? (John Tavares is still on the books at $11 million through 2024-25.)

From this seat, the Nylander-Treliving stalemate has little to do with the player’s desire to be a Maple Leaf or whether this gorgeous zone-entry machine is worth $9 million or $10 million. This decision (re-sign? trade? let him walk?) has more to do with how new management handles valuable assets and chooses to build a complete hockey team.

As it stands today, with less than a month till camp’s opening, no one is threatening to break up the band. But no one is raising their hand to take a discount either.

“Like I said, the contract stuff, that’s not for me to figure out. That’s between Brad and my agent, and when and hopefully they get that done soon, it’ll be good.”

No worries, right?

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