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If William Nylander signs, he sets Matthew Tkachuk’s contract floor

By 3 p.m. Calgary time on Saturday, William Nylander will either sign a contract for the 2018-19 season or sit out for the rest of the campaign. If he does sign (with the Toronto Maple Leafs or somebody else), his deal will provide a good ballpark for what to expect when Matthew Tkachuk becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, 2019. But for a few reasons, Tkachuk will probably get a heftier deal.

Tkachuk will have played more NHL games on his first deal

Nylander’s played parts of four North American pro seasons, splitting the 2014-15 season (his contractual 19-year-old “slide year”) between the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the SHL’s MODO Hockey. He split the 2015-16 season between the Marlies and Leafs – not accumulating enough NHL experience to count as a “year of service” for the purpose of unrestricted free agency – and then spent 2016-17 and 2017-18 as a full-time NHLer.

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Tkachuk went directly to the Flames and has stayed there ever since. As of Saturday night’s game, Tkachuk had played 170 NHL games and since Nylander only made 185 appearances for the Leafs on his entry-level contract, Tkachuk will definitely have more NHL skates to his credit when his deal expires.

Tkachuk has slightly better point production

Nylander has 135 points in 185 NHL games, for a 0.729 points-per-game pace. Tkachuk has 126 points in 170 NHL games, for a 0.741 points-per-game pace.

That said, Tkachuk is more reliant on special teams time for his production. Nylander has a higher proportion of his points at even strength than Tkachuk – 69.6% versus Tkachuk’s 68.3% – though their even strength points-per-game are extremely similar – 0.508 for Nylander, 0.506 for Tkachuk.

Tkachuk has slightly better goal production

Nylander has 48 goals in 185 NHL games, for a 0.259 goals-per-game pace. Tkachuk has 49 goals in 170 NHL games, for a 0.288 goals-per-game pace.

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Nylander scores a higher proportion of his goals at even strength than Tkachuk – 68.8% versus 65.3% for Tkachuk – but Tkachuk scores at even strength at a high per-game rate – 0.188 versus Nylander’s 0.178.

Tkachuk arguably drives play more

Tkachuk has a higher Corsi For percentage than Nylander – 57.0% versus Nylander’s 52.6% – and a higher Relative Corsi percentage than Nylander – +6.5% versus Nylander’s +1.9%.

We can debate what those numbers precisely mean, but functionally what it means is that Tkachuk’s line has the puck more often than Nylander’s line (and more often relative to the other lines on both of their teams in that span).

Both players have had help

Tkachuk’s most frequent even strength linemates during his entry level years have been Selke candidate Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Norris contender Mark Giordano, and some combination of TJ Brodie and Dougie Hamilton. You can argue that it’s easy to look good when you’re surrounded by good players.

But Nylander has also played with some pretty good players. His most frequent even strength linemates are Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly. The depth of the Leafs during Nylander’s time has also been a plus for him, as it has allowed them to use him further down in the line rotations than the Flames have been able to use Tkachuk.

Tkachuk has had more challenging deployments

Playing with Backlund and Giordano has its downsides. Among Tkachuk’s most frequent forward opponents at even strength: Ryan Getzlaf, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Joe Pavelski, Anze Kopitar and Sidney Crosby. He’s started 43.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone.

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Among Nylander’s most frequent even strength opponents: Sam Reinhart, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Frans Nielsen, Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist and Jakub Voracek. He’s started 52.6% of his shifts in the offensive zone.

Tkachuk has a good case for higher compensation

When you compare their roles, situations and performances during their entry level years, both Nylander and Tkachuk are very impressive young players.

But there are several small reasons why Tkachuk is arguably more important to the Flames’ success than Nylander is to the Leafs’. So whatever cap hit Nylander produces on his new deal, expect that to be the basis for Tkachuk’s camp to ask general manager Brad Treliving to give him a little bit more.


  • Abagofpucks

    Look’s like turtle’s is gonna be around 8 mil, if he sign’s with the Flame’s. Overall he’s a better player than JG, Johnny has better puck handling skill’s but turtle’s is a more skilled overall player if you really think about it.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Mid June 2019 The National News:

    Pandemonium in Toronto tonight as the Leafs win their first Stanley Cup since 1967 and become the first Canadian team to bring the cup back home to Canada since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens once again prove that when something needs to get done in this country, Ontario or Quebec will get’er done.

    • Redleader

      I agree by TKACHUK s 4rth nhl game I said he would be in the Hall of Fame and hopefully the Hall of Flame as he was the most impressive Flames rookie I’ve ever seen by far ! ,

      • Mickey O'Reaves

        Matthew Tkachuk loves hockey so much, he’ll get into coaching or management many years down the road as well. His feel and IQ for the game is off the charts.

        • Hockeysense9393

          I don’t know…Nieuwendyk was quite impressive his first couple/few years. in my eyes, he would be the most impressive rookie the Flames ever had. Loob and Tkachuk fighting for second…

      • Albertabeef

        You must be pretty young because I could think of one or two Flames rookies with pretty awesomely impressive seasons. Joe’s Calder trophy season for one. The Golden Brett was so great we were able to trade him for cup winning pieces. Theo with 34 points in first 36 games. Could even throw in Suter and his Calder trophy season. Could throw a shout out to Iggy and Phanuef’s rookie seasons. Gee and Mony and Johnny and decent rookie seasons too. Tkackuk is pretty up there though.

        • Hockeysense9393

          I still think that Nieuwy had the best all out career of any Flame in history. Loob has always been connected with the organization and works for them today. Can’t forget Vernon or what Robert’s has contributed to hockey as a whole. Gio probably the best leader in Flames history. Lanny and Iggy know where their hearts are. I think Tkachuk could be a combination of everything to this team. It will be fun to watch his career enfold front and center.

        • Hockeysense9393

          Brett only had (almost) a .50 Goals/per game when he was a Flame (26G/52GP) his 1st real year. It’s hard to assess a player when they are out of shape lmao. It was a savvy “depth” trade at the time…but wow? He had over 40 goals the next season, and we knew how he turned out after that. This turned out to be one of the Flames worst trades in history, but was masked by a cup win the following year. It’s funny how no one talks about how bad that trade was for the Flames.

  • Sea of Redd

    Hope Nylander doesn’t get signed. Only way he’s getting the 9mil he was asking for is if the leafs fire Dubas and hire Chiarelli. I think 7mil is still too much for Nylander.

    But yes, Tkachuk should get more than Nylander.

  • Willi P

    If not for Peter Chiarelli signing McDavid first and then giving away the farm to Leon, Toronto wouldn’t be in this mess.

    PC should have signed Leon first since he was an RFA. He had a full year before needing to sign McDavid. Makes no sense. Probably would have saved him 3-4 million on the combined contracts.

    Good on Toronto (can’t believe I said that) for trying to reset RFA values. Hope they hold firm and somewhat fix the mess that the PC created. This should help the Flames with the Tkachuk contract.

  • freethe flames

    So Nylander is making $45 m over 6 years; by my simple math it makes his cap hit $7.5m; what am I missing when people say it is $6.9m? Here’s hoping that Tkachuk comes in somewhere near this in both regards to term and $; Tkachuk is IMO the more complete player but I think in some peoples eyes Willie gets the bump in flashy skill but I will still take Tkachuk; thank you very much.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    What the Nylander holdout showed me is that today’s young superstars are absolutely fearless when it comes to negotiating contracts, so they can and will withhold their services to get their demands met. Did Nylander’s camp really think they could score $9M a season? I sincerely doubt it.

    Message for Tre here is not to try and screw around with Matty when the time comes to hammer out a contract. Tre needs to talk turkey with his biggest superstar and not be a turkey and try and use Matty’s RFA status to lowball the kid. Just as Nylander bolted from the Leafs rather than accepting a bad deal, Matty will do the same. I am not sure the Flames could lose Matty for the first 25 games of the year and still be flying high like the Leafs, so Tre had better not dick around with who many believe is the Flames’ “generational talent.”