At the eleventh hour, Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander reached an agreement with the franchise and signed a new six-year contract worth $41.77 million. Nylander had until Dec. 1 to sign a new deal and remain eligible for the 2018-19 season. Now that Nylander’s situation has been ironed out, the new contract will have ramifications not only for the Maple Leafs but for the rest of the NHL as well.
Thumbs Up for Nylander The 22-year-old winger, who scored 20 goals and had 61 points last year, negotiated himself a much better deal than if he would have signed prior to the season’s start. The new contract itself is very creative offering Nylander a salary of $10 million this season, which prorates to $6.77 million. The third-year player also gets a signing bonus of $2 million. The contract averages out to just under $7 million per annum. Not a bad payday for Nylander.
It Works for Toronto The deal also works for the Maple Leafs for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, Toronto is better with Nylander on the ice. When leading scorer Auston Matthews and Nylander are on the ice together in 5-on-5 situations, Matthews has a shooting percentage of 13.44. When Nylander is not on the ice, Matthews shoots 10.48. Matthews also scores more often when Nylander is on the ice. Simply put, Matthews and the Maple Leafs score more and win more often with Nylander on Matthews’ wing.
The contract also works if the Maple Leafs ever consider trading Nylander after this season. Minus this year’s $10 million in salary, Nylander’s contract shifts to a much more manageable $6.9 million per year. That is more attractive to potential trade partners than a deal in the $11 or $12 million range. New Maple Leaf John Tavares signed a deal with the franchise in the $11 million range. He isn’t going anywhere. In the end, if Toronto has to they can use Nylander to work out a trade.
What About the Rest of the NHL? Next summer, there will be an All-Star cast of free agents. Matthews will be one of them. With Nylander’s new deal done, next year Toronto will have the resources to re-sign Matthews should he choose to stay. What is also likely to happen is what Nylander did to get his new contract. Mikko Rantanen, the Colorado forward who leads the NHL in points, will be a free agent next year. So will Winnipeg star Patrik Laine, Carolina’s Sebastian Aho, Vegas’s William Karlsson, and a number of others might use Nylander’s tactic – holding out until the deadline.
Contracts will almost surely become more creative as well as teams use bonus structures to get players more money up front. Also, guaranteed money will be a bigger factor in negotiations. What the rest of the league is likely to see is new deals similar to Nylander’s. It makes perfect sense too. In the end, a team gets a bona fide star. The star gets a huge payday up front and then the franchise holds a contract that makes the player more valuable in a trade. Everybody wins, just like in the Nylander situation.