It’s getting uncomfortably close to the William Nylander deadline for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Still without a contract, the 22-year-old restricted free agent and forward has sat out for the first seven weeks of the 2018-19 season while the Maple Leafs have remained steadfast in their belief that they will retain him.
However, they have just a few more days to get something done before Dec. 1, the deadline day for the Maple Leafs to either sign or trade Nylander. Should they not come to an agreement or are not able to trade him, Nylander will be forced to sit out the remainder of the season before becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The root of the problem for the two negotiating sides, of course, is money. Nylander is looking for a deal that will pay him an average of $8 million per season while the Maple Leafs, who will be strapped for cash in the next few years, need that number to be lower if they want to hold on to other young stars like Mitch Marner or Auston Matthews.
The prospect of Nylander’s availability on the trade market, even though Toronto has repeated that he isn’t available, has raised speculation if teams around the league like the New York Islanders should pursue a deal.
With less than a week to go until decision day, it wouldn’t be surprising if calls from rival executives blew up the phone of Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas.
But things are trending in the right direction for Dubas. Reports have indicated that the Leafs and Nylander are gaining traction in contract talks, with Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston revealing that Nylander’s camp would accept a deal near $6.9 million.
It’s unclear if the Maple Leafs have offered that kind of money, though Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman added to Johnston’s reports that the two sides are “within about half-a-million dollars” of each other.
That should leave plenty of time for a deal to get hammered out, but if things break down, there could be a last-minute frenzy along the trade market for teams to pick up Nylander for the last five months of the regular season.