VOORHEES, N.J. — In the coming weeks, speculation surrounding William Nylander will only intensify.
The Maple Leafs' restricted free agent has yet to agree to a contract and his holdout continues through the first two weeks of the regular season. With the Leafs jumping out to a 6-2-0 start, they’re also the highest-scoring team in the league, averaging 4.13 goals. Right now, the current Leafs show no signs of missing Nylander’s contributions, even with the 22-year-old left winger coming off back-to-back 60-point seasons.
The Maple Leafs and Nylander have until Dec. 1 to reach an agreement, or he’s ineligible to play for the remainder of the season.
There’s a feeling that if a stalemate continues into November, another team could present an RFA offer sheet or the Leafs will entertain offers for a possible trade. Toronto has a real need to strengthen its blue line and a Nylander-for-a-defenseman blockbuster deal could ultimately benefit the Maple Leafs in the long run.
With cap space to accommodate and draft picks to cover the required compensation, the Flyers could step in and offer sheet Nylander. While general manager Ron Hextall won’t comment on signing a player currently property of another team, he did provide insight into signing any potential RFA to an offer sheet.
“Depends on the fit, depends on the player, depends what type of situation the other team is in,” Hextall said. “There’s a lot of factors that come into offer sheets, and the price is typically pretty high. For another team not to match it, you’re going to be paying a high price, so the reward on what you’re going to pay out in terms of dollars and cap space and what you’ve got to give up if the other team’s not matching it, chances are, you’re probably overpaying.”
In 2012, the Flyers whipped up the biggest offer sheet in NHL history when then-GM Paul Holmgren signed Predators defenseman Shea Weber to a record 14-year, $110-million offer. Holmgren thought the structure of the contract would discourage general manager David Poile from matching the Flyers' offer.
But the Predators didn’t balk. They matched the offer, sparing the Flyers from forking over four first-round picks. In case you’re wondering, those first-round picks turned out to be Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov and German Rubtsov, so you can decide whether the Flyers are better off with those guys or with a 33-year-old Weber who’s been battling injuries over the past year.
At that time, Weber seemed to be worth the hefty compensation: A cornerstone shutdown defenseman at 26 years old in his prime years. After all, the Flyers surrendered two first-round picks and two former first-round selections when they dealt Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa to acquire Chris Pronger from the Ducks in 2009. Weber was considered the replacement to Pronger, who suffered a career-ending head injury in October 2011.
Holmgren stepped down two years later, turning the general managerial duties over to Hextall, and part of the reasoning was how he was perceived across the league as a result of the Weber offer sheet. Holmgren described how things changed to writer Jay Greenberg in the Flyers' 50th Anniversary Edition.
“Even though [RFA offers] are within the rules, they are really frowned upon,” Holmgren said. “My relationship with a lot of other general managers changed. It’s hard to do this job if you have a bad relationship, or at least, a perceived bad relationship, with any number of GMs.”
Interestingly, signing a player to an offer sheet wouldn’t deter Hextall, who admitted he would utilize every resource within the CBA to gain an advantage.
“It’s business. A guy takes a player off waivers, it’s business,” Hextall said. “It’s within the rules. The rules are the rules. It’s the rules we’re given. Player wants to hold out, or if we want to keep a player out of camp that’s not signed, those are the rules. That’s business, not personal. To me, none of that stuff is personal.”
So the question going forward is not whether Hextall would exercise the offer sheet option, but if a player like Nylander is actually worth it. Any offer sheet over $10.1 million in value, which is where the Flyers would have to go on a multi-year deal, the compensation is once again four first-round picks.
Perhaps you can forfeit future picks for a 25-minute-per-game defenseman, but it’s simply a price way too steep for a skilled winger like Nylander.
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