Nylander’s streak pushing his price tag upwards
William Nylander was already figuring to be one of the NHL’s most attractive free agents next off-season, with the forward’s six-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs expiring at the end of the season.
Then arrived his current 17-game point streak. (If you want to be a true stickler, it’s 19 consecutive regular-season games stemming back to last season).
I think it’s fair to argue that the 27-year-old Nylander has been one of the most polarizing players of the past 10 years or so, but not for the typical performance reasons. Nylander, for as long as he has been a Maple Leaf, has been a reliable weapon inside of their top two lines.
But questions about his ceiling as a player (surely owing in part to his weaker scoring production relative to that of teammates Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner) have lingered; so too have the concerns about Toronto’s salary cap issues over the years and whether they should have committed so much of the cap to a small percentage of players.
Setting aside Toronto’s roster-building strategies over the years, I’ve long found the concerns over Nylander as a player puzzling, and on two fronts.
First, his current deal has an average annual value of less than $7-million per year. For a higher-end top-six winger, that’s a deal that has aged well.
Second, the offensive production concerns have always been overstated. Nylander may be in the most consistent scoring stretch of his career, but we have seen plenty of instances in the past where the opposition struggled to keep him off the stat sheet.
This is the longest scoring streak of Nylander’s career, and, quite frankly, aside from a 12-game run in March of 2017, we just haven’t seen a stretch from the winger like this in his career.
But scoring streaks can serve as curious measurement criteria. If you look at Nylander’s rate scoring, it’s virtually flat over the past three seasons at nearly 3.5 points per 60 minutes played. If you think he’s hot right now, well, he’s been that hot for quite some time.
The other point I’d make here is that Nylander really has closed the gap with his peers. If you isolate his rate scoring by season against another star forward like Marner, you see they have started to look interchangeable as offensive producers, largely from Nylander’s improvement over the past few years:
One last point, and it’s one that shouldn’t be lost on anyone, including potential free agent bidders this off-season. Nylander has been solid in the playoffs, where the Maple Leafs have more broadly struggled. He’s totalled 40 points (17 goals; 23 assists) in 50 games, another number that trumps the venerable Marner.
So, let’s celebrate Nylander’s incredible streak and see how far he can take it. But the Swedish forward arrived many moons ago as a scorer. And if he keeps this up, his price tag – be it in Toronto or with another franchise as soon as next season – is going to keep accelerating upwards.
Data via Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference