Capped: Fallout from the Nylander Contract

Alexander MacLean



This week's Capped looks into the many angles of the fallout resulting from the signing of William Nylander.


I managed to only mention William Nylander twice last week. Now that he has signed, we have to deal with the wide-reaching impact of his new contract. This impacts the Maple Leafs, and future RFA contract negotiations league wide. He gets mentioned a few more times this week.

Here are the impacts of the Nylander contract.



The Maple Leafs Salary Cap Situation

The Maple Leafs are going to be pushing the salary cap with their young stars all being paid within a two-year period. Everyone knows there will be a few cuts to make it happen, but we don’t yet know where. That being said, Dubas has said it has been his goal all along to keep the young core together. This means that the most likely way to fit everyone under the cap, is to sign a few bridge deals for the depth pieces, promote some youth from within, and backfill with cheap, replacement-level players. An example of which can be seen below using the capfriendly armchair-GM tool.



In this example, Connor Brown is the only casualty by trade, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are given their commonly anticipated cap hits, and the rest of the RFAs are signed to bridge deals (until the Patrick Marleau contract expires).

No this is not what will happen. This is not even how I think it will happen. This was a quick experiment to show that it really won’t be hugely difficult for Kyle Dubas to keep the important parts of the roster together if he is open to going top heavy. The Nylander deal did what it had to do.

For owners in cap leagues, if you keep it simple and show his cap hit as $7.5 million, this should be what you expected. For those sticking to the average annual value (AAV), it is a tough pill to swallow this year. However, holding onto Nylander for years two through six will be well worth it. Having a young star player such as this costing less than $7 million against your cap is what can win you leagues.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have gone the route of stacking up some top talent, and then filling out the bottom of the roster with cheap role players for years. This is how I usually approach my fantasy leagues as well. The depth players for a fantasy leagues then help me dominate categories such as faceoff wins or hits. For example, Colton Sissons, William Carrier, or Brad Richardson. In the real NHL, you end up with players that just need a chance to shine, such as Justin Holl in the future, or Yanni Gourde in the present.



Cap Hit Ripple

Putting aside the varied allocation of the cap-hit based on Nylander signing late, we get a contract of $45 million over six years. This means the simple AAV is $7.5 million, or a cap hit percentage of 9.43%. Johnny Gaudreau was the last young star to threaten sitting out as a negotiation tactic, and he settled for a nearly identical 9.25% of the cap. David Pastrnak’s recent contract gets a lot of comparisons to Nylander’s based on proximity, and the talent both have shown to date. Pasta’s contract was signed at 8.89% of the salary cap. The cap hits are staying relatively the same, however there is an undeniable feeling of a power shift from the team to the player. Some players in future may then take this farther even than Nylander, and that is how you start to get bad contracts; not just on July first, but the rest of the year as well.

I see this as a possible sign that both players and teams are going to be looking to move away from the bridge-contracts. Nashville and Tampa are leading the way with it, and now the players are going to be pushing for it as well.  



Future RFA Holdouts

Who then looks like they fit the mold to hold out in a future season, and why should you care? Well it’s unlikely we are going to be able to pinpoint who will sit out, and for how long, but we know for sure that the Nylander owners did not enjoy this roller coaster ride from the last few months.

From a quick look at next year’s restricted free-agent crop, my top three bets to enter into some degree of a contract standoff would be:


Brayden Point – Assuming the $83 million mark for the salary cap next season is somewhere accurate (more on that later), the Tampa Bay Lightning only have around $10 million to fill eight spots. Point will be demanding almost all of that by himself, so we may see a scenario where the Lightning stand their ground asking Point to take a bridge deal so the team can keep everyone together. It worked for Nikita Kucherov, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for a bridge deal here. It won’t be easy.


Matthew Tkachuk – Before the Nylander holdout, Calgary had the largest profile holdout situation, until Johnny Gaudreau signed his contract two days before the 2016 season. One of the sticking points was not wanting to pay Gaudreau more than current captain Mark Giordano. Tkachuk is in the territory to top the contracts of both Giordano and Gaudreau, which Calagary may want to try and limit. Additionally, Calgary having history of playing hardball (specifically GM Brad Treliving) makes this an easy conclusion to reach. Tkachuk’s next contract is one of the most unpredictable when looking at it from now.


Sebastian Aho – This one is fairly simple. As mentioned last week, his 100-point upside in a smaller market like Carolina may create some differences of opinion with management. Aho is going to deserve a Draisaitl-like contract at minimum, meanwhile the previous largest contract signed by the Carolina franchise was the $6.3 million AAV deal given to Cam Ward in 2009. Adding an extra $2 million on top of that may be tough for the Canes to stomach.



Salary Cap and Lockouts

This is your periodic reminder that the most likely result of the next round of CBA negotiations is a lockout for some period of time. Nylander’s contract continues to follow the trend of players having tiny base salaries in 2019-2020, with massive signing bonuses (signing bonuses get paid out regardless if there is a lockout). Try not to corner your window just into next year. Aim for wider, over the next few years, or just win this season.

Continuing with the look-ahead, Commissioner Gary Bettman stated on Monday that the salary cap was expected to rise to $83 million for the 2019-2020 season (if they play one!). What this means, is that we see a similar rise from last year, and that those contracts signed a couple years ago that looked good then, continue to age like a fine wine. With the cap constantly rising, it is crucial to get those types of contracts on your team if you want to contend.



Previous Capped articles:

Upcoming RFA Contracts

First Quarter of 2018 vs First Quarter of 2017 – Trends



All cap related info is courtesy of Capfriendly.

That caps off this week’s article, thanks for reading. As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean where I hope to not have to mention Nylander for a while.


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