The stalemate in Toronto between the Maple Leafs and restricted free agent William Nylander has been well publicized. Perhaps too much. Irrespective, the outcome will act as a precedent for next year’s crop of RFAs, among whom is Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk.
I’ve got an idea for a new drinking game.
Turn on TSN, or Sportsnet, or any sports radio station east of Manitoba and drink a shot of whiskey every time you hear the name William Nylander. I assure you, you will not last long.
In case you’ve been in space for the last 3 months, let me update you. Nylander, son of former Calgary Flames forward Michael Nylander, has not played a game for the Leafs yet this season. He and team management have yet to come to terms on his new contract (his entry-level deal expired at the end of last season). As such, Nylander is skating in Switzerland while his agent tries to get a deal done.
It’s easy to understand how this situation came about. On one hand, Nylander wants fair market value for his services (48 goals, 135 points in 185 games played). On the other, the Leafs need to manage the salary cap for a team that is paying John Tavares $11M/year and will need to negotiate next year’s big dollar contracts for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
So what, you may be asking, does this have to do with the Calgary Flames? The answer is Matthew Tkachuk and the inevitable comparisons between the two scenarios.
Tkachuk’s very friendly entry-level contract expires at the end of the 2018-2019 season at which time he will become a restricted free agent, like Nylander. Tkachuk’s career numbers as of this writing are 49 goals and 124 points in 169 games played, very close to Nylander’s. Tkachuk is the son of an ex-NHL player, as is Nylander. Finally, Tkachuk plays for a team that will have salary cap concerns next season, just like Nylander.
You don’t need a crystal ball to see where this is going. The outcome of the Nylander situation will obviously colour Tkachuk’s negotiation.
According to James Mirtle of The Athletic, Nylander entered negotiations using Leon Draisaitl’s (ridiculous, in my opinion) contract of 8-years, $8.5M/year contract as precedent for Nylander’s “going rate”. Since then, the player’s stance has softened. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston speculates that Nylander is now willing to accept $6.9M for 6 years which, as of this writing, the team still seems unwilling to accept.
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It stands to reason that Tkachuk’s agents at Newport Sports Management Inc. will negotiate using the same metrics. Tkachuk’s production for the Calgary Flames is numerically similar to Nylander’s.
Points, however, is where the similarities end.
Matthew Tkachuk is clearly a different player than Nylander. Tkachuk can singlehandedly change the tone of a game and push his team as he did November 17th against the Oilers. This ability alone has some speculating that Tkachuk may be the Calgary Flames’ next captain. Such intangibles, along with his presence in front of the net and talent for drawing penalties, arguably puts him in a better negotiating position than Nylander.
As well, Nylander’s Leafs have fared very well without him (2nd place in the Atlantic Division with 18 Wins and 36 points). I hardly think the Calgary Flames would do as well without Tkachuk.
Additionally, there is the parties involved. Calgary Flames fans may be familiar with Nylander’s agent, Lewis Gross of Sports Professional Management. Gross represented Johnny Gaudreau in a negotiation saw Gaudreau sit out of the team’s 2016 training camp. Conversely, and as mentioned, Tkachuk is represented by Don Meehan’s Newport Sports Management Inc. Their client, Sean Monahan, did not sit out one minute of training camp and re-signed with the team the same summer as Gaudreau did. It is cause for optimism that Brad Treliving will be dealing with the agency that does not have a penchant for holding out.
The final difference between the two negotiations is the relative positions of the two teams. On one hand, Toronto will enter this offseason with the burden of giving Matthews and Marner huge raises within the confines of the salary cap. The Flames, however, have their big names (Gaudreau and Monahan) locked down at a reasonable rate for the foreseeable future. The Flames, alternatively, will need to address the situation in net this summer and, given this year’s play so far, Sam Bennett will be due a raise. But Calgary’s situation is not as dire as Toronto’s.
Similarities and differences notwithstanding, the outcome of Nylander’s negotiation will influence Tkachuk’s. Indeed, many of next year’s restricted free agents are watching this closely. And the wait may be prolonged. If Nylander and the Leafs cannot reach an agreement by 5:00pm EST on December 1st, Nylander becomes ineligible to play this season.
So, though it pains me to say it, Calgary Flames fans should keep their eyes on what’s going on in Toronto.
@tkachukycheese, if you’re reading…don’t hold out, please! We need you back.