William Nylander

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There’s a lot of talk surrounding William Nylander right now, as it appears that contract negotiations aren’t going overly well.

You consistently hear about teams having their own pay scale. As in, Player “A” is the captain and leader on the team and makes, for example, $10M per year, so the very skilled Player “B” can’t approach the team and demand a contract that would pay him an average of $11M per season. The team sets their internal scale from the top down.

When Kyle Dubas handed $11.634M (which has since taken a small rise, due to the league minimum salary going up) to Auston Matthews, he essentially did the same thing. Once it was time for Mitch Marner to sign his contract, it got out that his camp was taking the stance that there are no comparables around the league for Marner, because the only comparable they’re allowed to use is Auston Matthews. Essentially saying that he is as valuable to the Maple Leafs as Matthews, so he should get a deal that’s worth as much or nearly as much.

Now we have William Nylander saying the same thing. It sounds as if he’s fully aware that he isn’t in the same class as Matthews and Marner, but he’s saying “okay, I’m not worth what Matthews and Marner are worth, but I’m not worth THAT much less than they are either.”

We’ve all been over the players that are comparable to Nylander around the NHL, such as Timo Meier, Filip Forsberg and Pierre-Luc Dubois, but those discussions will lead nowhere in this situation. The comparable is Matthews and Marner and the Leafs have to decide how much he’s worth to the franchise, based on the pay scale they’ve created for themselves. Also, while they can definitely allow this to drag through the summer and right up to next season’s trade deadline and beyond, it would certainly be nice to see a resolution sooner rather than later. As we know, William Nylander and his camp have no problem with negotiating up to the final hour, but the difference now is that at a certain point they can simply sever communications and Nylander will walk for nothing next summer. After having been through the same thing with Johnny Gaudreau a year ago (Gaudreau and Nylander have the same agent), while being the GM of the Calgary Flames, I think Brad Treliving would like to avoid that type of situation a second time.

For what it’s worth, in a hard salary cap world, I think paying Nylander over $10M per season just isn’t worth it. A lack of scoring depth, high end defenders and a true #1G has plagued the team for the past few years. While trading Nylander won’t solve all of the Leafs problems, everybody knows that you fix multiple issues one at a time and trading him could fix at least two of those. With the right trade, the Leafs could help shore up another position, while maintaining their depth up front and taking out a lottery ticket by way of a draft pick.

I’ll explain that in a moment.

Many fans are concerned about “winning” the Nylander trade, if one were to take place. So lets talk a little about what winning a trade looks like in the general sense.

Most trades take place for a number of reasons, such as:
– A rebuilding team wants to recoup assets
– A rebuilding team wants to take on a “salary dump” to gain assets, hit the cap floor and have warm bodies on the bench
– Team “A” and “B” have an excess at one position and a need at another, so they make a swap. Example: Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones
– A player has asked for a trade, forcing their team to take the best return possible
– A player has grown too expensive for the team, such as Chicago trading half their roster after they won the Stanley Cup

While there are lots of other reasons to pull the trigger on a trade, there wasn’t a single defensible reason for Kyle Dubas to trade for Matt Murray….. it made no sense when he did it and it’s still fuckin stupid. But I digress….

These are just a few of the reasons to make a deal and they’re ones that are easy to defend if a team “lost” the trade. For example, in terms of the Toronto Maple Leafs, there are many fans that would say they’d do the Jake Muzzin deal again, because it made a lot of sense at the time, even though it didn’t lead to the goal that they set out for, which is winning the Stanley Cup. There are others that would say they simply lost the trade because they didn’t win the Stanley Cup.

In other words, if you trade the best player in a deal, or an asset like a 1st round pick, that becomes the best player in the deal, you still win if the team wins the Stanley Cup.

On the flip side, if you trade a player that helps a team win the Cup, but are a rebuilding team and obtained a fair price, then even if the prospects and picks you received for said player ultimately don’t turn into much, it’s still tough to complain because that was the process they were going through at the time.

Considering that the Leafs aren’t rebuilding, have the cap space to fit Nylander on the roster if they want to and would be trading him of their own accord, it muddies the water of what a successful trade would look like.

Obviously the first option when it comes to a return would be the Johansen for Jones trade a few years back. Trading Nylander straight up for a legitimate top 2 defender in a 1-for-1 deal makes a ton of sense. The question is what defender are you dealing him for? The Leafs are in need of a player with size and defensive ability and it wouldn’t hurt if they could chip in a little offense. Finding a player that checks all of those boxes is difficult as is, while finding one that is available for trade is near impossible. There were whispers that the St. Louis Blues would consider making Colton Parayko available for the right return and he would definitely fit what the Leafs are after, but the question has to be asked if Nylander is the right return for them. The 30 year old Parayko is signed for 7 more seasons at a $6.5M contract as well, which would fit nicely into the Leafs plans for the next few seasons.

The option I lean towards would be similar to what the Winnipeg Jets did with Pierre-Luc Dubois. After asking for a trade for the second time in his career, the Jets obliged and sent him to the L.A. Kings for Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari and a 2nd round pick. Gabriel Vilardi is a 23 year old forward that was drafted as a centre but played the wing in L.A. and just had a breakout season in which he scored 23 goals and 41pts in 63 games. Kupari is a 23 year old winger that never took off in L.A. but has played a depth role for the past couple of years. Lastly, Iafallo is a 29 year old veteran that is steady but unspectacular offensively, with 204pts in 420 career regular season games under his belt. The prize here is Vilardi and his potential, while Iafallo will be a middle six contributor and a 2nd round selection tops up the value in the trade.

A similar return for Nylander could be any type of mixture depending on the team you’re trading him to, but what would be ideal is to get a middle six winger or top 4 defender that can help the team immediately, but isn’t as valueable in a trade, while also asking for a top prospect and/or a high pick. If you get a blue chip prospect the pick doesn’t need to be as high, or if you get a high pick, you could take a lower valued prospect.

An example would be the Calgary Flames, who could offer Nikita Zadorov as a 2nd/3rd pair defender, Dustin Wolf as a top goaltending prospect and a 1st or 2nd round pick. It’s easy to pick the Flames because they have so many other players that are on expiring contracts next year that they 100% do not want another on their plate, so I can simply throw names out there without caring about the true value of the deal.

The Washington Capitals are reportedly looking for a shakeup within their top 6 as well. Their top 6 forward unit is aging and nothing there really makes a ton of sense, but for arguments sake the Leafs could pitch the idea of Evgeny Kuznetsov as a less valuable top 6 player, Vincent Iorio as a good prospect and a 1st round pick. Considering the Caps picked in the top 10 at this years draft, it could be that they’d want protection on the 1st, but that’s a formality.

Lastly, because I feel like making another ridiculous example for no good reason, the Seattle Kraken are looking for more skill in their top 6. While he has a full NTC, a package that started with Jamie Oleksiak as a top 4 defender, a high pick and a good prospect could be a deal for the Leafs to consider.

There are lots of possibilities to consider and these aren’t really my favourite, rather they’re just what I could haul out of my rear end in a moment, but the point is that the “win” wouldn’t come from the player that would log minutes for the team immediately. Instead, the Leafs would either have to draft and develop any prospect they got into a more valueable player to win the deal in the standard sense, or trade those assets in a separate deal, in order to fill holes and push this team towards the ultimate goal, that is winning the Stanley Cup. In the meantime, the roster player would simply have to be a 2nd line player or a top 4 defender, instead of what William Nylander is, a top line player that is playing on the 2nd line.

Final note. If they do decide to move on from Slick Willy, I hope they don’t go for the “quantity over quality” package. That would be a middle 6 forward or two, a depth defender and a 2nd rounder blah blah blah. Those deals never work out for the team that’s giving up the best player in the deal. Instead, they have to think about the Pierre-Luc Dubois deal, or, better yet, the deal that sent Matt Duchene out of Colorado, ultimately landing the Avalanche Bowen Byram, who is turning into a very nice player for them right now. It’s those teams that want to push forward when their window is closed, or who think their window has opened when it hasn’t, that could make a mistake and trade a 1st for Nylander that could turn into a top 10 selection.

What were the Washington Capitals saying about wanting to mix things up again?