William Nylander does not want to see his Toronto Maple Leafs teammates Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner endure the same wait for a contract that he did when they become restricted free agents after this season.
Nylander, an RFA this past off-season, did not re-sign with the Maple Leafs until the December, missing the first 28 games of the season. The Maple Leafs winger appeared on 7-Eleven That's Hockey on Monday and said his advice to Matthews and Marner would be to sign in the summer.
"Yeah, I mean just get it done before the season starts," Nylander said. "I mean that's probably the one thing that I would want to get out of the way."
Earlier Monday, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said he, too, hopes to avoid a repeat of the Nylander situation.
“It will be our intention to get those done as soon as possible,” Dubas said of extensions for Marner and Matthews. “We do want to avoid a situation like we were just in [with Nylander], and we’re completely in control of that this time in that there is no excuse. I can’t say, ‘Well, I wasn’t doing this job a year ago.’ Our intention is that well before July 1 we have an agreement and both players are here long term.”
The 22-year-old Nylander inked a six-year, $41.7 million contract just minutes before the 5:00 p.m. ET deadline on Dec. 1. He made his season debut for the team on Dec. 6 and has two assists in five games since. Nylander said his start hasn't been ideal, but things are improving.
"I think I'm starting to feel better and better every game," Nylander said when asked when he would be 100 per cent. "Hopefully I'm there within the next few games and I'm starting to feel pretty good... There are things like timing that you can improve. I mean that's getting better and better every game.
"I'm not really happy with how it's gone, but now it's going to get better, so that's good."
While he remained away from the team, rumours emerged that the Leafs could trade Nylander in order to improve their defence. Nylander, who received an assurance from Kyle Dubas that he would not be traded as long as the general manager remained in charge, said speculation has not had an effect on him.
"You don't really pay attention to them," Nylander said of trade rumours. "People have said that I was going to get traded since I got to Toronto, so I think rumours are rumours and you can't really listen to them."
The Maple Leafs, who were 18-8 before Nylander signed, are 1-2-2 since the forward's debut and Nylander said he believes the group simply needs time to gel.
"I think we're just getting everything together with everybody back," Nylander said of the team's slump. "It takes a little time once everybody gets back and then we'll get going."
Toronto sits one point back of the Buffalo Sabres, with a game in hand, for second in the Atlantic Division entering Tuesday's game against the New Jersey Devils. Expectations remain high for the Maple Leafs this season, though Nylander said the group is well aware of their recent playoff history.
"We all wanna go far in the playoffs and we have to keep in mind that we've only gone to the first round," Nylander said. "We wanna get past that first round and then anything can happen."