Can’t get enough NHL rumors? Lyle Richardson’s Rumor Roundup column serves as a one-stop guide to the latest rumblings around the league.
Contact Standoff Continues Between Leafs, Nylander
Barely a week into the 2018-19 NHL season, William Nylander’s contract impasse with the Toronto Maple Leafs dominates the rumor mill.
A restricted free agent completing an entry-level contract, Nylander has no leverage in negotiations with the Leafs other than withholding his services. On Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported the 22-year-old still wants a long-term agreement.
Kypreos’ colleague Chris Johnston said the Nylander camp initially sought a deal comparable to the $8.5-million annual salary-cap hit of Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl. Reportedly, Draisaitl’s side has not come down below $8 million while the Leafs prefer something in the range of $6 million to 6.5 million.
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Frustration with Nylander appears to be creeping into the Leafs front office. Citing comments last week by Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the feeling is they cannot afford to re-sign Nylander, fellow young stars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, and pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Jake Gardiner at full market value. However, if they’re willing to accept a little less, the Leafs could be a winning team for many years.
In other words, the Leafs would prefer those four accepting “hometown discounts” to stay in Toronto. Holding all the leverage with players coming out of entry-level deals should give management the advantage, but Nylander, Matthews and Marner aren’t ordinary players. They are the core around which the Leafs hope to build a roster that ends the club’s five-decade Stanley Cup drought.
Re-signing them will be expensive. There’s already talk of Matthews, as the Leafs franchise player, possibly getting around $12.5 million per season on his next deal. Keep in mind, John Tavares is already signed for seven years and $77 million.
The Leafs have until Dec. 1 to get Nylander under contract or he becomes ineligible for the remainder of the season. While plenty of time remains to get a deal done, the pressure could rise if there isn’t a resolution soon, and the hammer slowly shifts from team to player.
TSN’s Darren Dreger said last week teams have called Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas regarding Nylander’s availability. Dubas maintains the young center isn’t going anywhere, but Dreger wonders if he’ll change his mind if this standoff drags on into November. Meanwhile, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks believes the Leafs will have to trade Nylander if they can’t get him re-signed before Dec. 1.
If it comes to that, the Leafs could use Nylander as bait to bolster their blueline. Entering Tuesday’s contest against the Dallas Stars, the Leafs surrendered 13 goals in just three games. If this issue persists, perhaps Nylander’s value is to fetch a skilled top-four defenseman.
Can the Sabres Re-sign Skinner?
The Buffalo Sabres pulled off a significant trade this summer, sending a prospect and two draft picks to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for left wing Jeff Skinner. A three-time 30-plus goal scorer, the 26-year-old is expected to provide invaluable offensive punch to the rebuilding Sabres.
At the time of the trade, Skinner said he was pleased to join a club with a promising future. How long he’ll be part of it, however, remains to be seen. Skinner is in the final season of his six-year, $34.35-million contract and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July.
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In his season preview of the Sabres, Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News wondered if the Sabres can convince Skinner to sign a long-term contract extension. Should the Sabres once again fall out of the postseason race by next February’s trade deadline, Harrington considered the possibility of shipping the winger to a playoff contender for a solid return, provided Skinner waives his no-trade clause.
For now, Skinner’s not going anywhere. If the Sabres improve and he enjoys being a part of a core that includes young studs Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt, et al and takes to living in Buffalo, perhaps a contract extension can be worked out.
No doubt, his status will be worth following over the course of this season.