The huge information within the NHL this week was the Auston Matthews extension. The Toronto Maple Leafs signed him to a four-year, $13.2 million per yr deal that makes their finest participant the highest-paid within the NHL.
The extension prevents Matthews from coming into free company and testing the market. But it additionally places the Maple Leafs up towards the wage cap, most notably after this season when the contract kicks in. As a end result, the clock is ticking on their different star, who will probably be a free agent within the 2024 offseason, that being William Nylander. The Maple Leafs can maintain Nylander on the roster for the season forward, nevertheless it’s unlikely they may maintain him long-term, and it might immediate them to commerce him in some unspecified time in the future.
Related: Maple Leafs Sign Auston Matthews to 4-Year Contract Extension
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A whole lot of groups will probably be fascinated by buying Nylander, and the New York Islanders aren’t any exception. However, the Islanders and common supervisor (GM) Lou Lamoriello can have a handful of obstacles to beat to be able to land the star ahead, and a deal would require quite a lot of shifting items.
Islanders’ Cap Situation Creates Obstacles
The Islanders don’t have quite a lot of cap area to work with. Heading into the 2023-24 season, they’re $486,625 above the cap and should ship not less than one skater right down to the American Hockey League (AHL) earlier than the season begins. Next offseason, the Islanders can have an excellent tighter cap scenario with goaltender Ilya Sorokin’s eight-year, $8.2 million per year extension beginning to take impact. To add Nylander and subsequently prolong him with a contract within the $8 million or extra per season vary, the chances are stacked towards them so as to add a participant of his caliber.
That mentioned, the Islanders can have room subsequent offseason to work with. The greatest assist will probably be Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin coming off the books. The two veteran forwards departing will present the Islanders with $3 million to work with. It’s begin, however Lamoriello should make a commerce a technique or one other to liberate the remaining cap area to a participant of Nylander’s caliber.
The two skaters that come to thoughts are Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Brock Nelson. Otherwise, the Islanders solely have two different skaters which have a $5 million cap hit or better however don’t have no-movement clauses connected to them, Mathew Barzal and Kyle Palmieri. The backside line is that each participant who may be traded to make a transfer potential performs an integral position on the present roster, with Nelson and Barzal being two of the staff’s finest gamers. Lamoriello would probably keep away from buying and selling any of the above-mentioned skaters, however it will be the price of including Nylander and worthwhile to contemplate with that in thoughts.
The two skaters to look at can be Pageau and Palmieri, as they’ll liberate $10 million in cap area if they’re each traded. The query is which groups can be fascinated by including both ahead. Both are nonetheless enjoying at a excessive stage however are of their 30s, a sign that they may solely be capable of play at this stage for thus lengthy. The groups that would purchase each skaters are the Maple Leafs and different contending groups that might wish to add a veteran scorer to their ahead unit.
When a Nylander Deal Can Likely Occur
The Maple Leafs will look to make a push with their core to win the Stanley Cup this yr. They advanced to the Second Round within the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs and have the items in place to make a deep playoff run and win the primary Cup title since 1967. With the staff trying to make a run with this core, Nylander, on the very least, will keep on the staff till midseason.
This creates an avenue for the Islanders to make a transfer on the 2024 commerce deadline. It’s unlikely the Maple Leafs will commerce away certainly one of their finest gamers, particularly since they’re projected to be one of many high groups within the Eastern Conference, however a deal remains to be potential.
The different choice the Islanders have is to attend till free company and purchase Nylander with out having to make a commerce with the Maple Leafs. This is the best route for them, however sadly, Lamoriello has noticeably averted making splash signings in free company. Every offseason, the expectation is that Lamoriello will signal a star scorer to a giant contract, however 5 years into his Islanders tenure, he has but to take action.
In 2019, Artemi Panarin was obtainable, however he signed with the New York Rangers. In 2022, Johnny Gaudreau and Nazem Kadri have been obtainable, however Gaudreau signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets, whereas Kadri signed with the Calgary Flames. In the previous offseason, Alex DeBrincat was positioned on the commerce block however went to his hometown staff, the Detroit Red Wings, in a blockbuster commerce.
Lamoriello’s monitor report factors to a Nylander commerce being extra probably, however loads would want to swing within the Islanders’ favor. For starters, the Maple Leafs should stumble out of the gate and look terrible a couple of months in. Likewise, the Islanders would should be close to the highest of the Eastern Conference. Lastly, Lamoriello has to have a positive supply in place early within the season to sway the Maple Leafs to maneuver Nylander.
The Asking Price for Nylander
When the Islanders acquired Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks, they needed to transfer on from three items, particularly, an NHL-ready participant, a high prospect, and a range within the first spherical of the NHL Entry Draft. The package deal ended up being Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and their 2023 choice within the first spherical. The Maple Leafs are a contending staff and never a rebuilding one, so the items will probably be completely different, however the asking value, when it comes to worth, can be comparable.
The NHL-ready gamers this time must be Pageau and Palmieri. Unlike Beauvillier, each skaters are older and beginning to decline. However, each forwards are playoff-proven and may put a staff trying to make a Cup run excessive. Instead of a high prospect, the Maple Leafs will search for a defenseman to spherical out their unit, particularly, a left-side defenseman to assist out Morgan Rielly, Jake McCabe, and Mark Giordano. The defensemen who would probably be concerned in a deal can be Sebastian Aho and Samuel Bolduc, two youthful skaters who can add pace and youth to the defensive unit. Pair a veteran skater and a younger defenseman with a draft choice within the first spherical, and GM Brad Treliving, who’s in his first yr with the staff, would possibly make the deal.
A deal can be a dangerous one for each groups. Lamoriello doesn’t wish to half with the gamers on the present roster, particularly Pageau, whereas the Maple Leafs would hope to play out your entire season with Nylander on the staff. However, a blockbuster commerce may be useful to each side and set them up for a Cup run subsequent season and success within the lengthy haul.
Nylander’s Long-Term Value on the Islanders
Nylander is coming into the prime of his profession and hitting his stride after scoring a career-high 40 objectives and 47 assists. He would develop into a core a part of the Islanders’ high six and assist rework their offense into probably the greatest within the league. Specifically, he’s a flexible ahead who can each create scoring possibilities with fast passes and discover the again of the online himself with an incredible shot. Last yr within the playoffs, the Islanders’ lack of versatility was on full show, because the offense scored solely 15 objectives towards the Carolina Hurricanes within the six-game series.
Horvat would have one other playmaker on his wing alongside with Barzal. Likewise, Anders Lee, who’s an instinctive purpose scorer, might have Nylander on his different wing, discovering him open within the offensive zone. If Nelson stays on the Islanders after the commerce is accomplished, he may be the best playmaker for Nylander with his playmaking capacity.
The Islanders have a justifiable share of obstacles of their approach to land Nylander. However, the Matthews extension creates a path for Lamoriello to take action. Ideally, they wait till the summer season so as to add him, but when a positive deal is in place, the Islanders and Maple Leafs could make the splash of the 2023-24 season.