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William Nylander signed an eight-year contract worth $92 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. That is an eye-popping number for Nylander, and it will make him one of the NHL's highest-paid players when the extension kicks in next season. It will also force the Leafs to make some tough decisions next offseason.

Currently playing out the final year of his current contract at $6.9 million per year, Nylander was due for a massive pay raise, and he got it. It was well-earned, especially given that Nylander is coming off the first 40-goal season of his career and he is on pace for another one this year.

Nylander has been one of Toronto's two best players in 2023-24, along with Auston Matthews, but his new cap hit will vault him into the upper echelon of the NHL's elite. Here is a look at the top cap hits for the 2024-25 season as things stand today.


Salary Cap Hit

Auston Matthews (TOR)

$13.25 million

Nathan MacKinnon (COL)

$12.6 million

Connor McDavid (EDM)

$12.5 million

Artemi Panarin (NYR)

$11.6 million

Erik Karlsson (PIT)

$11.5 million

William Nylander (TOR)

$11.5 million

David Pastrnak (BOS)

$11.25 million

Rasmus Dahlin (BUF)

$11 million

John Tavares (TOR)

$11 million

Drew Doughty (LAK)

$11 million

But for as well as Nylander has played over the last calendar year, his production hasn't always stacked up well with some of the other forwards on that list. Matthews scored 60 goals in 2021-22, he has led the league in scoring in two of the last three seasons, and he is on pace to score 68 goals this year.

David Pastrnak tallied 61 goals last season, and he is doing a bit of everything for the Boston Bruins in the wake of Patrice Bergeron's departure this season. That has thrust him into the Hart Trophy discussion after he finished second in voting for the award last year.

Speaking of the 2024 Hart Trophy, Nathan MacKinnon is also one of the frontrunners for the award. He's finished in the top five of voting for the MVP award four times throughout his career, and he led the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup in 2022.

Then, there is Connor McDavid, who is simply in another stratosphere compared to every other player in the league. He has 123 goals and 208 assists since the start of the 2021-22 season, three Hart trophies, and five Art Ross trophies. McDavid is probably underpaid at $12.5 million.

Nylander has been exceptional this season, but he has yet to show that he can do it at that level over multiple years. His current career highs are 40 goals, 47 assists, and 87 points, which he hit last season. Through 40 games this year, Nylander is on pace to shatter all three of those numbers and finish with 45 goals, 77 points, and 122 points. That would certainly be an output worth $11.5 million per year.

Nylander will be 28 years old when the new contract begins, and aging curves suggest he won't exactly take his game to another level after that, but he is a highly skilled player who could defy those historic trends. It also helps that Nylander has been a strong play driver at five-on-five in his career, regardless of production. In the last three seasons, Toronto owns a 55.8% expected goals share and plus-13 goal differential, per Natural Stat Trick.

When it comes to Nylander, the Maple Leafs had a tough decision to make. They had to make a difficult choice, and they will have to make more soon. If Toronto's goal is to keep its Stanley Cup window open, and it very much is, then keeping Nylander was probably the right move. Even though he may not produce at the same level of Matthews, MacKinnon or Pastrnak, Nylander is the type of player teams will search far and wide to find, and the other options weren't very appealing.

The Leafs would have struggled to get equal value in return, especially when it comes to getting players who could get them over the hump this season. The other option was to let him walk in free agency and sign or trade for another star player in the offseason. Players of Nylander's caliber don't often hit free agency, and opposing teams aren't usually keen on giving them up in trades.

While extending Nylander may well prove to be the right decision, it may have a domino effect this offseason. Right now, the Leafs have $65.6 million committed to 13 players for the 2024-25 season, per CapFriendly. That leaves just around $22 million for roughly 10 more players, and there are a few intriguing restricted free agents like Timothy Liljegren, who is probably due for a slight raise.

The decision Toronto general manager Brad Treliving will have to make this offseason is whether he can build a Stanley Cup contender around the "Core Four." Between Matthews, Nylander, John Tavares and Mitch Marner, the Maple Leafs will likely have four of the 12 most costly deals on their books in 2024-25 once Vancouver Canucks star Elias Pettersson gets his new contract.

Matthews and Nylander are now signed for the long haul, but Tavares and Marner each have just one year left beyond this one. Considering Tavares will be 34 at the start of next season, he is the obvious trade candidate, but the 26-year-old Marner would likely bring in a bigger haul in a deal.

Maybe Treliving opts to keep that core group together, but then he has an average of around $2 million per player with which to fill out the rest of the roster. That presents its own set of challenges because it often takes star power and depth to navigate the rigors of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Inking Nylander to a large extension was the right call for a franchise still chasing its first Stanley Cup since 1967. The Leafs would be hard-pressed to find a sufficient replacement for one of the more electrifying players in the NHL right now, but it will create more painful decisions in the near future.