“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”- African proverb
It’s true — they really don’t.
William Nylander has never sailed through ‘smooth seas’ to say the least. I’d say he’s been on The Deadliest Catch for two or three seasons, from his contract holdout to today. The road is still incredibly bumpy for him as there’s still a large group of people who believe Nylander should be traded.
Whether it’s the clothing he wears or the money he makes, there’s always someone who dislikes something about him. A good question to ask, though, is — why? Some still feel pain from his holdout during the 2018-19 season which went on until the last hour. But it’s hilarious to me that the grudge is being held, because he’s lived up to every single part of that contract.
I’m also very surprised that his name is being thrown out there in mock trades. His cap hit is large and it would be a lot of money that they could move out for a defenceman. But is it justifiable to trade one of your best players, who, in this past season had 31 goals and is the cheapest of the “big four”?
To add more context, there were only three players (David Pastrnak, Mika Zibanejad and Nathan MacKinnon) who had more goals and had a cheaper contract. One of those players has been titled by some as ‘The Best Player in the World’, another is on an incredible team-friendly deal and there’s Zibanejad, who scored 40 goals this season for the first time in his career.
Nylander also had the most High Danger Goals For with 1.78 per 60 minutes. A lot of people say he’s the best perimeter goal scorer on the Maple Leafs and even — one of the best in the entire league.
“Kyle has told me multiple times that as long as he’s here he’s not going to trade me.” Said Nylander.
After the contract holdout with the 24-year-old, Kyle Dubas said this and I believe he’s going to keep his word. He’s even doubled down multiple times saying again that as long as he’s the GM of the Maple Leafs, Nylander won’t be traded.
He’s just entering his prime and if you were to trade him you’d be taking a big hit to your offense. There’s also the fact that a number of NHL teams are trying to spend well below the cap because of financial reasons. Is there a team that would take on that contract? Probably, but I don’t believe many teams are looking into it.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have $40 million allocated to four players. Yes, it’s a lot of money for that many players but the ball that got it rolling, the John Tavares signing, was something Dubas had to do. If he missed out on that, then the Maple Leafs would have $29 million tied up in three players — similar to many teams in the NHL.
I’m not saying Tavares is a problem, but more so trying to say that Nylander isn’t.
Two teams that come to mind that are eerily similar to the Maple Leafs’ cap situation are the two teams battling for the Stanley Cup. On the Tampa Bay Lightning, there’s $24.75 million allocated to three players (Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point).
I do want to pause on them for a second because Point, who’s being paid $6.75 million on a bridge deal — is going to be getting a massive payday soon which will push them close to the $30 million mark for three players. The same goes for the Dallas Stars who have $32.6 million allocated to four players (Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov).
My point here is that without Tavares, who if I remember correctly had meetings with both the Stars and the Lightning, the Maple Leafs would be in the same situation as other teams. If either of those teams signed Tavares, would we be saying the same about them?
Signing the 24-year-old Nylander to the five-year, $45 million contract is only 8.76% of the Maple Leafs cap hit. There are 61 players in the NHL that make more money than Nylander and only 22 of those players had more points than him last season.
Neither of Tavares or Nylander are the problem, but when you have the chance to sign a huge free agent, you do it. And maybe Dubas does it again this year by freeing up some cap space to sign Alex Pietrangelo — who knows? And what will the fan reaction be if he does?
Back to Nylander: Every year, he improves drastically. He’s shown he can be a dominant puck carrier, an incredible perimeter goal scorer and someone who I believe has a role on the Toronto Maple Leafs for the rest of his career. Each NHL team needs depth in their group if they want to compete for the Stanley Cup and if you take out Nylander, your depth diminishes.
There’s not one single player who can provide the type of offense that he can at this very moment without being more expensive. Sure, there are a few cheaper options, but not one like Nylander — he’s one of a kind.
This year for the Maple Leafs is huge. If they don’t make it past the first round, again, then look for possible changes up front. But like I said in past articles — this could possibly be the ‘The Last Dance’ for this core.
That is unless they do something special.