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Analyzing William Nylander’s $92 million contract with Maple Leafs

Nov 10, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (88) shoots the puck against the Calgary Flames during the overtime shootout at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday morning, after returning from a successful road trip through California, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they extended leading scorer William Nylander with an eight-year, $92 million contract.

After re-signing 60-goal scorer Auston Matthews in the offseason to a four-year agreement valued at $53 million ($13.2 million annually), Nylander became Toronto’s second-highest-paid player with the NHL’s fifth highest average annual valued contract.

According to CapFriendly.com, heading into this year’s playoffs, only two NHL skaters projected to be in the top-10 highest-paid players for the 2024-25 season — Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) and Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings), have won the Stanley Cup. The Maple Leafs will employ two of the top five skaters on this list next season, so the pressure will be on Nylander and Matthews to produce and help end a 57-year championship drought in Toronto.

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Is William Nylander worthy of $92 million contract extension with Maple Leafs?

Considering that Matthews is a former Hart Trophy winner as NHL MVP and has already reached the exclusive 60-goal club (2021-22), his pedigree is set. But Nylander doesn’t have the same resume as the other highest-paid players, like MacKinnon (Stanley Cup), Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Hart Trophy) or Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (60 goals). Nylander, though, is in the midst of his best season with 54 points (21 goals, 33 assists) in 37 games. He established an NHL career high with 87 points in 82 games last season.

There are many within Maple Leafs nation who don’t believe Nylander is worthy of such a mega contract. And other feel especially that way since the Maple Leafs are tied into the big bucks deal for Matthews.

However, Nylander has been busy proving his doubters wrong by setting a franchise record with a 17-game point streak to start the season. Moreover, he’s been among the top scorers in the NHL, currently ranking fifth, a place he’s never been previously in the NHL.

Despite Matthews getting selected as the hometown representative for the 2024 NHL All-Star Game on Feb. 3 in Toronto, there’s a good chance Nylander will be voted into the game, marking another milestone in his career.

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Will Maple Leafs be able to keep Mitchell Marner, John Tavares?

With two of the Maple Leafs’ core four locked up for the next four years (at a minimum), what happens to their other stud forwards, Mitchell Marner and captain John Tavares.? Each can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2024-25 season.

After this season, the NHL salary cap is projected to be $87.7 million, meaning Toronto will pay just two players $24.7 million, representing 28% of the team’s cap space. Overall, these four players will count for 58% of the Maple Leafs cap hit in 2024-25, and that doesn’t include any possible extensions for Marner or Tavares in the offseason.

Historically, Toronto has had dozens of potential Hall of Famers in its lineup, but now its trying to build a championship core for the first time in decades. However, these four players have just one playoff series win collectively.

The Maple Leafs haven’t won anything or even advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, which leaves many in the hockey world wondering why the team is committing so much money to these players, which hamstrings them to build around their stars.

Heading into 2024-25, the Maple Leafs will only have unproven netminders Joesph Woll and Dennis Hildeby on the payroll and will need an elite goalie to complement the core four. By extending Matthews and now Nylander, Toronto is focused on keeping its stars and not thinking about how other teams build their rosters.

Time will tell if the Nylander and Matthews signings were wise and if they can help lead the Maple Leafs to their first championship in decades.

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