History repeats itself in Nylander's contract negotiations

Pro players
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Marsha Joseph
Pro players
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If you only have a few minutes to spare, here's what you should know:
Nylander was consistent all through last season and is worth his ask
Asking players to take discounts to be guaranteed a team spot is problematic
Players don't owe anyone anything, but themselves to show their skills and prove their worth

Let the talks begin

With a potential contract renewal floating in the air, William Nylander has once again become a spectacle for media, fans, and foe.

All the fuss leads people to wonder: is this worth the noise or is it a waste of energy because he should be paid his worth?

If Nylander has been anything over the course of his current contract, it's consistent.

Last year, he broke his personal best in goals scored during the regular season for the second time in a row. The now 27-year-old was one of four players to play all 82 games and ranked second in scoring by the end of it.

With every game, the young forward has proven that he is always learning and growing.

Nylander is a leader on his team in many ways. He has shown the ability to orchestrate plays, boost energy on the ice, and be a driving force for his team and their success.

William Nylander celebrating a goal

Judging the ask

According to Chris Johnston, the ask from Nylander’s camp is said to be around $10 million AAV.

If the comparison has to be made, it is less than the $10.9 million teammate Mitch Marner signed for in 2019.

When looking at both players’ contract-year performance, it's filled with various personal bests and records broken. Nylander, just like Marner, is very much in a position to showcase all of this, but isn’t allowed to without suffering consequences – including hate from all corners of the NHL world.

The way the world of hockey is progressing, the media, fans, and even teams within it are perpetuating this idea that a player cannot vouch for themselves.

They are quick to judge their abilities simply based off of a dollar amount being asked.

Why should a player have to fight so hard to defend themselves and their worth? Why should he be expected to take a discount when he’s playing at the caliber of someone who makes 3 million more than him a year?

Tom Szczerbowski
Toronto Maple Leafs' president Brendan Shanahan talking about William Nylander's contract negociations in a press conference in 2018.

Expectations and end goals

All that being said, what exactly is the issue when it comes to Nylander?

The problem lies largely in the restrictions of the salary cap.

Teams aren’t in a position to dish out a fair value for their best players. Because of this, teams and their fans ask and expect players to take team-friendly discounts in exchange for their manager building a winning lineup with the savings.

This was evident with Nylander’s last negotiation with the Maple Leafs, where Shanahan confirmed he asked the forward to take less, with the promise of keeping the young talent on the team together. In doing so, players are losing out on well-deserved money, and teams are losing the trust of their players because of the need to undervalue them.

In the NHL, there seems to be an uncanny expectation that a player must be obedient to the team they play for, especially when it comes to contract negotiations.

Shouldn’t the other side of that expectation be that the team listens to what the player has to say about their time there?

There should be open conversation between all parties about performance, expectations, and goals, including whether they were successful in all respects.

If the common understanding cannot be showing the ways an individual fits into the organization and makes it better, and is therefore worth X amount of dollars against where the team is coming from regarding their place on this team regardless of how much money they have to spend, then what is even a point of negotiation?

This process is dehumanizing.

Yes, Nylander is a piece in the puzzle that is the Maple Leafs organization, but he is actually more than that. He already took a discount the last time negotiations came around. Why should he be obligated to do it again?

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