William Nylander, Maple Leafs agree to contract at 11th hour of sign-or-sit standoff

William Nylander (Getty Images)

William Nylander took his contract holdout with the Maple Leafs to the wire, but the wait is over.

The two sides agreed to a new deal Saturday minutes before the 5 p.m. ET signing deadline, ending a monthslong standoff and narrowly avoiding a season without one of the NHL’s most promising young talents. Nylander’s contract is for six years and worth $41.4 million ($6.9 million AAV), the team announced.

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The extension, filed at 4:55 p.m., is subject to league approval.

Nylander will earn a $10 million salary with $2 million in bonuses for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, meaning he’ll count $10.2 million against the salary cap this year. The cap hit is reduced to $6.996 million starting in 2019-20.

The money and term is similar to Boston’s David Pastrnak (six years, $40 million). Nylander’s agent and Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas were said to have been $2 million AAV apart as recently as November, with Nylander’s camp seeking a deal closer to the $8.5 million AAV of Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl.

The compromise, then, is a win for Dubas and the Maple Leafs, who managed to salvage a sticky situation a lock up a young asset long term at a reasonable rate. 

Nylander, 22, had been training on his own in Sweden during the holdout and won’t be on-hand for Toronto’s game Saturday night in Minnesota. But he could rejoin the team in time for Tuesday’s trip to Buffalo, where he’s expected to pick up where he left off after back-to-back 61-point seasons alongside Auston Matthews and the Leafs’ dynamic group of forwards. Toronto had gone 18-8-0 in his absence, entering Saturday in third place in the Atlantic Division.

Nylander would have been forced to sit out the rest of the 2018-19 season if the sides couldn’t agree to terms by Dec. 1, leading to rumors about possible trades. 

That could still hold true, as the cap-strapped Leafs have to make significant decisions this summer with Matthews and Mitch Marner requiring new contracts of their own. But that’s a question for another day.

In the meantime, it appears everyone is on board to chase a Stanley Cup this season, as originally intended after the Leafs signed John Tavares in the offseason.