TORONTO — William Nylander said he was assured by Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas that he will not be traded as long as Dubas remains in charge.
“Kyle has told me multiple times that as long as he is here, he is not going to trade me and from what I saw that [coach Mike] Babcock said that I was going to be here a long time, I’m not really too worried about that,” the forward said Monday.
There had been some suggestion that Nylander, who agreed to a six-year, $45 million contract on Saturday, was concerned that by staying with the Maple Leafs, he could become a candidate to be traded given the salary cap constraints Toronto will face with forwards Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner requiring new contracts next season and forward John Tavares in the first year of a seven-year contract with an average annual value of $11 million.
“His contributions that you’ve seen year in and year out, the effect that Mike Babcock, Jim Hiller and D.J. Smith have on him, he continues to grow as a player, not just as a producer of points which we know he can do but continues to get better and better,” Dubas said. “I have faith knowing him and his intelligence level, his dedication to his craft that he’s going to continue to improve. That’s not the type of person that we want to see walk out of here.”
Nylander, who had 61 points in each of the past two seasons, will not be in the Maple Leafs lineup on Tuesday when they face the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Arena (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN4, NHL.TV). Toronto’s next game will be against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday at Scotiabank Arena.
The next two big items on Dubas’ agenda will be contracts for Matthews and Marner, who are each in the final year of their entry-level contract and eligible to sign extensions. Nylander said he did not consider the effect his contract could have on those negotiations.
“I just tried to get what I deserved or what I could get. To be honest, I haven’t really thought about that,” Nylander said.
Dubas, in his first year as the Maple Leafs general manager, vowed to learn from the process to ensure Matthews and Marner’s negotiations do not stretch into the regular season next year.
“Frankly I’m disappointed in myself that it did,” Dubas said. “We’ll sit back and learn from it, but I don’t want any of our players to have to go through this again and I don’t want our coaching staff to have that distraction as we move ahead. That falls on me to learn from it and make sure we take that into account with all the future contracts we have.”
Nylander, who had been a restricted free agent, said he was not surprised to hear Babcock expressing his belief that the forward would eventually sign and rejoin the team in the week leading up to the 5 p.m. ET deadline Dec. 1.
“Babcock called me with a little less than a week left, it was just constant dialogue and I just felt really comfortable knowing this is where I wanted to be, even before the negotiations started,” Nylander said. “[Babcock] knows how much I want to play here so I guess he just vocalized that to [the media] without me having to say that.”
Nylander said the new contract will not weigh on him compared to his own expectations.
“I’m going to put pressure on myself to perform; I want to be a top player,” Nylander said.
Dubas said he has no doubt after being around Nylander first with Toronto of the American Hockey League and for the past three seasons with the Maple Leafs that he will continue to flourish.
“He has a healthy belief in himself. I don’t think it’s arrogance, but I think he knows what his potential is,” Dubas said. “Not only is he aware that he has that potential but he’s also aware of the work he needs to do to reach it. You see him in his personality; it doesn’t really change regardless of what people say about him. I don’t think the contract will affect his daily improvement and contributions.”