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The three paths William Nylander can walk

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Sign, trade or sit out.

NHL Combine
The puke bike test was easy compared to this.
Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images

You stand in a forest and ahead of you the path branches in three directions. Which path will fate push William Nylander down?

Signing Deadline for RFAs

11.4 Signing Deadline for Group 2 Free Agent. An SPC for a Group 2 Free Agent will be rejected and will be null and void ab initio (i.e., the Player’s Free Agency and contractual status shall revert to the status he held prior to signing his SPC), if it is not signed and filed with Central Registry by 5:00 p.m. New York time on December 1 in the then current NHL Season.

ARTICLE 11

So that’s the deadline to the minute. But there’s more to it:

11.5 Filing and Approval Process.

(a) An SPC or an Offer Sheet will be deemed to be filed with Central Registry only when it is actually received by Central Registry. A Club shall file an executed SPC or an Offer Sheet with Central Registry in accordance with Exhibit 3 hereto (provided that any electronic version of the executed SPC must have the optically-scanned signatures affixed thereon).

(c) A Club must file an executed SPC or Offer Sheet with Central Registry, with a copy to each of the Player and the NHLPA, by no later than 5:00 p.m. New York time on the day following the day the Club has received the executed SPC or Offer Sheet from the Player.

(d) From the date which is seven (7) days prior to the commencement of the Regular Season, through the end of the League Year, the League shall approve and register, or reject, an SPC by no later than 5:00 p.m. New York time on the day following Central Registry’s receipt of such SPC (provided it was received by Central Registry by 5:00 p.m. New York time; SPCs received by Central Registry after 5:00 p.m. New York time will be deemed to have been received on the following day for purposes of this provision); at all other times … [we don’t care about other times]

To sum that up, a contract has to be submitted by 5 p.m. one day, and the league is obligated to file it or reject it by the next day at 5 p.m. The team has to send the contract in within a day of receiving it from the player.

So that makes the effective deadline seem like November 29. The Leafs need to have a contract signed by William Nylander, get it to the NHL by November 30 at 5 p.m., and then the league can file it. However, the NHL is not some government department ready to refuse service based on some esoteric reading of the rules. They have every reason to make sure contracts are filed, even last-minute ones, because they’re in the entertainment business, and keeping a player out of hockey for clerical reasons is not how an entertainment business is run.

There is a process of appeal that kicks in if an SPC is rejected by the league. If all this happens within 24 hrs of a deadline like the December 1 deadline for RFAs, and the contract is ultimately not accepted after the appeal process, there is a 48 hr window to renegotiate the deal. Otherwise, there is a 3-day window or the Arbitrator can adjust the contract depending on the situation. So even waiting until the last day carries no heavy risk.

Trades

It’s all very well and good to speculate about trading the rights to an RFA in this situation, but unless he and the team getting him in the trade have already got a deal more or less agreed to, that can’t be too last minute.

The trade has to be approved and filed and then the contract. In the current situation, it seems highly unlikely anyone would trade for the rights to Nylander without knowing exactly what the terms they were going to sign him to were. After all, the acquiring team is required to have the cap space, and there’s no handy cushion to allow teams to go over the cap from free agent signings and trades like there is in the offseason.

Other teams can talk to Nylander all they want, he is a free agent. But no deal can be signed, other than an offer sheet, which is not happening, until that team owns his rights — that’s the restricted part.

The sort of trade we see in the offseason where rights to a player are traded and then weeks later the player is signed, is not the kind of trade that will be made two weeks prior to the December 1 deadline.

The effective date for trade is really the very last day. Trades get done on draft day and it all works. But a few days grace is much more likely.

Nylander sits out the year

The Leafs and Nylander are free to fail to ever come to an agreement, and the Leafs are then free to take no action at all. At that point, Nylander is free to go play hockey wherever he likes. Or he can take up some other profession, but likely he would play. The famous full-year holdout Michael Peca did not play competitive hockey in his year out of the NHL.

The KHL holds a draft every year, and the teams often draft players, particularly European prospects, who they don’t think will ever play outside the NHL. They do this because every once in a while the NHL can be counted on to lock the doors and send all those talented players out into the wilderness where they end up playing on teams near the Kazakh border. (In the last lockout, the KHL teams in the far east tended to have few to no NHLers.) The rights to such players get moved around sometimes, often on spec, but sometimes for real reasons if a player is not cutting it in the NHL.

Avangard is a team in the East Conference, and they play in a city very far east and close to Kazakhstan, and that might make that quote above from Bob Hartley an unlikely story, except for one interesting bit of timing. The Avangard rink in Omsk developed some cracks and had to be repaired. Avangard are playing this season in a Moscow suburb with an English-speaking former NHL coach and a host of former NHL players on the roster:

  • Cody Franson
  • Ville Pokka
  • Alexei Emelin
  • Max Talbot
  • David Desharnais
  • Kris Versteeg

Oh, and they’re really good this year, and one can only imagine how good their Corsi is with that D corps.

To make this even more complicated, it was reported weeks ago that Kris Versteeg was returning to the NHL. That hasn’t happened, and yet he hasn’t played since October 22 and is not listed as injured. The rules for a KHL team in Russia are that only five foreign skaters can appear in a game. The roster itself can have more than five. In addition to those five non-Russians up above, the team also has one Swede. If the team adds Nylander, they’ll be sitting one of their other foreign skaters in every game, but that’s easy to fix, particularly if Versteeg is leaving.

If this game of contract chicken goes all the way to a whole year out of the NHL for Nylander, Avangard not in Omsk is his most likely destination, but they could trade his rights to another team.

He can play in the SHL, of course, but unlike a lot of Swedes, he was raised in the US as much as he was Sweden, and he doesn’t have the same connection to a home town club some players have. I can’t imagine a single one of them would turn him down, however.

The idea of him choosing to play in the KHL can’t be all that exciting. Avangard have played over 25 games already, and by December 1, that number will be 32, or over half the season, and with their home rink in the west, their road games still go all over the east, all the way to China, so the travel is brutal.

As for what he might get paid, that’s a good question we’ll never get answered unless someone leaks the number if all this comes to pass. If I were him, I’d take one ruble in salary and the most comprehensive insurance policy they could put together that pays out in US dollars.

Which path will he end up on?

Poll

Which fate will befall Nylander?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Sign
    (1709 votes)
  • 32%
    Trade
    (1226 votes)
  • 21%
    Sit out
    (803 votes)
3738 votes total Vote Now