How Common is William Nylander’s Contract Holdout?

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Posted October 26, 2018

(photo via NHL.com)

William Nylander still hasn’t signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. This question popped into my head:

How late has an RFA held out into an NHL season for the contract he wants?

The first thing I did was go to one of the greatest resources in the hockey world, CapFriendly.com, which provided a full list of RFA’s, signed passed the start of their respective NHL seasons. Twelve players have missed games due to contract negotiations that went a few days too long. To start, let’s take a look at their stats, prior to signing their new deal.

Players ranked by Points-per-game (PPG); Statistical Data per HockeyDB; Contract Data per CapFriendly

A few notable names pop out including Jamie Benn, Ryan O’Reilly, and PK Subban who, back when they were fresh in the league, held out for better deals. However, only Benn came close to Nylander’s 185 GP, 48 goals, and 87 assists, good for 0.73 PPG, at the time of his hold out.

Some of these players did not hold out very long once the NHL returned to action. Rickard Rakell signed only 2 days into the 2016-17 NHL season and after only one Anaheim Ducks game had passed. Eric Gelinas signed 7 days into the 2014-15 NHL season and after 3 New Jersey Devils games were played. Subban, Benn, and Tim Kennedy all signed 9, 5, and 4 days into the awkward, 2013 NHL Lockout season, with Subban missing 4 Montreal Canadiens games, Benn missing 3 Dallas Stars games, and Kennedy missing 2 games with the San Jose Sharks. Finally, to round out the list of players who felt the heat early on in their holdout, Torrey Mitchell signed all of 1 day after the start on the 2009-10 NHL season, missing only a single San Jose Sharks game.

Not all of these contracts came easy and some players, as with Nylander, found themselves more than double digits in days into the NHL season having yet to sign a deal with their team. As of October 25th, Nylander has missed 22 days of the NHL season and 10 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Most of these longer hold outs have become common, as teams find themselves in a tighter cap crunch each season, with three of the six holdouts (excluding Nylander’s) having occurred between 2016 to present. Just recently, Nick Ritchie finally signed an extension with the Anaheim Ducks making him their third player since 2016 to miss regular season games because he had not yet settled on a deal. That result in him missing 15 days of the NHL season and 7 Ducks games. Other players who waited it out similar to how long Nylander has are Andreas Athanasiou who missed 19 days of the 2017-18 NHL season and 9 games with the Detroit Red Wings, Jacob Trouba who missed 26 days of the 2016-17 NHL season and 13 games with the Winnipeg Jets, and Hampus Lindholm who missed 15 days, also of the 2016-17 NHL season, and 8 games with the Anaheim Ducks.

While, at the moment, these scenarios look similar to Nylander’s, this is assuming his contract comes in the next week which, from the looks of things, does not look imminent. Also, the question posed at the beginning of this analysis still has not been answered, but could end up being however long William Nylander takes to ink a deal. All of the players on our list have been addressed except for two, and those two both missed an astounding 40+ days of their respective NHL seasons before coming to an agreement with their teams.

Ryan O’Reilly, of the Colorado Avalanche at the time, lasted 40 days into the 2013 NHL Lockout season and missed a total of 18 games (almost half the season due to the late signing of the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement). However, the deal did not come easily as the Calgary Flames submitted a two-year, $10 million offersheet on the Avs forward. But the Avalanche quickly matched and ended up keeping O’Reilly through the end of the 2014-15 NHL season before trading him to the Buffalo Sabres prior to the 2015-16 NHL season. While things ended well for the Avalanche at the time, one interesting note came of this due to the combination of O’Reilly’s holdout, the Flames offersheet, and the lockout. As detailed by SB Nation, had Colorado not matched Calgary’s offersheet, O’Reilly would have had to clear waivers prior to joining the Flames because he continued playing with the KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk passed the start of the NHL season. Therefore, Nylander signing with an international club team may actually quell any current fears of a team offersheeting him (even though there’s essentially no chance of that happening).

This leaves us with Kyle Turris. Turris played the 5th least amount of games and had the 5th least PPG of this list of RFA’s but still decided to fight with the Phoenix (at the time) Coyotes on his next extension. He missed an incredible 47 days of the 2011-12 NHL season and 19 Coyotes games before signing a two-year, $2.8 million deal after reportedly asking for “a three-year deal worth an average of slightly more than $4 million annually or a two-year deal worth slightly more than $3 million” per The Sports Daily. Only 25 days later, the Coyotes parted ways with Turris in a trade with the Ottawa Senators making him the only player of this bunch to be traded the same season he signed.

In most cases players ended up budging and coming in under what reports had claimed. Of the 12 players discussed, the average contract was a $2.6M AAV, 3 years long, and 3.8% of the signing teams cap hit. The highest of each of those numbers being a $5.25M AAV, awarded to Jamie Benn and Hampus Lindholm, a 6 year deal, awarded to Rickard Rakell and Hampus Linholm, and an 8.16% of the signing teams cap hit, awarded to Jamie Benn. If reports are correct then William Nylander could set records in each of those categories, reportedly asking for $8M, which would be 10% of the current NHL cap hit, and one would imagine that’s going to be for between 6-8 years.

So in a long-winded analysis, the answer to my initial question of  “How late has an RFA held out into an NHL season for the contract he wants?” is 47 days into the NHL season and/or 19 of their teams games. Should Nylander supplant this “record” he will need continue to hold out until November 20th, 48 days after the start of the 2018-19 NHL season, which would subsequently cause him to miss out on 21 of the Maple Leafs regular season games.