The contract battle between the Toronto Maple Leafs and restricted free agent forward William Nylander has seemingly reached a fever pitch over the week end and there may be a very good reason behind the sudden shift.
On Saturday night Sportsnet National Hockey League insider Elliotte Friedman revealed during the "Headlines" segment on Hockey Night in Canada that the Toronto Maple Leafs and general manager Kyle Dubas were, for the first time since this contract dispute began, seriously contemplating trade offers from rival NHL teams when it comes to William Nylander.
“They’re at a point where they’re beginning to test the market,” Elliotte Friedman said as per Sportsnet. “Word is that they have asked teams to inform them who teams or interested parties would not be willing to move and also to begin to preparing formal offers for the unsigned Toronto winger.”
The sudden shift in philosophy from Kyle Dubas and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs' front office is an indication that they now truly have some doubts about their ability to get Nylander signed to a number that they are comfortable with. Michael Nylander, William's father, has reportedly been a major impediment to getting this deal done and there has been rampant speculation that it is Michael who has insisted that his son not budge an inch from his initial demands. Those demands are believed to be upwards of $8 million per season on a new deal for William Nylander, and if rumors regarding a contract offer made this week by the Maple Leafs are true, the rumors regarding Michael may very well be true as well.
Sportsnet NHL insider Chris Johnston is reporting that the Maple Leafs made Nylander an offer that would have put him on par with Boston's David Pastrnak, that is to say an offer of a $40 million dollar contract over the course of the next 6 NHL seasons, however that deal was reportedly turned down by the Nylander camp. Now to be clear that rumor has been denied over the week end but if Johnston is still reporting that there has been plenty of "scuttlebutt" regarding this rumor than you can bet there's a reason it's out there so prominently.
That means that even an offer which would have paid Nylander an average annual valuer of $6.66 million per season over the next six seasons was not enough to get this deal signed, and that may force the hand of both Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs. What's particularly interesting is that Johnston does not seem to be ruling out the possibility that the Maple Leafs could simply choose to hold on to his right beyond Dec 1st and force Nylander to miss an entire season of his professional career due to the fact that they have full control of those rights until the young Swede will turn 27. Now that may not sounds too bad until you realize that Nylander is currently only 22 years of age which means that the Leafs could effectively prevent him from playing in the NHL for the next 5 years, something they clearly don't want to do but it appears that paying him $8 million or more per season is also something they don't want to do.
This one may be on the verge of getting very ugly.
Photo Credit: Kostas Lymperopoulos/CSM/Zuma