Torey Krug has been where William Nylander currently sits in his contract situation, albeit with fewer rights and without having to miss regular-season games.
Krug was a restricted free agent in the fall of 2014. But at 23 he had no arbitration rights and no one could present him with an offer sheet. The Bruins and his agent Lewis Gross had to negotiate a deal through training camp and almost all of the preseason before finally agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.4 million.
Nylander is a restricted free agent who has been away from the Toronto Maple Leafs for the entire season without a contract.
“It’s tough because, especially for me, I was such an early stage of my career,” said Krug, who had 40 points as a NHL rookie in 2013-14. “I think I had only played one full year. So you wanted to be here, you had the excitement of playing in the NHL, and these guys, they grow to be your best friends, and when they’re all working towards a goal and you’re kind of sitting there you’re like, ‘man I should be there helping them reach that goal?’ It’s definitely tough, but it’s part of the business.
“I think the era was a little bit different because now it seems like the younger players are just awarded these big contracts. Where if you had my stats back then in today’s world, you’re getting a lot more money. So it’s just funny to see how it’s developed over the years.”
Krug burned the first year of his entry-level contract in 2011-12 after leaving Michigan State as part of his deal to sign with Boston. He played just two NHL games that season. The next year he spent 63 games in the AHL while the NHL was locked out for half a season. He played one regular season game and then memorably shined in a 15-game postseason stint during the Bruins’ run to the 2013 Stanley Cup final.
When his first full season was completed, he was already done with his entry-level contract. After signing that one-year contract, Krug later that season signed another one-year contract for the 2015-16 season. Just before the expiration of that contract he signed his current four-year, $5.25 million per seasons contract, which expires after 2019-20.
Nylander is 22, he’s played two full NHL season and has 42 goals and 80 assists for 122 points in 163 games the past two seasons. Like Krug said, the landscape is different and players with Nylander’s level of production usually get compensated handsomely right out of their entry-level deals.
While there are similarities and differences between Krug and Nylander’s situations, one rock-solid similarity is the agent involved – Gross also represents Nylander.
“He’s great. I think he does such a great job of listening to the player and people often forget that the agent works for the player. It’s kind of gets lost because the agent’s telling you what to do a lot of times, but he does a great job of finding that middle ground, of doing what the player wants but also fighting for the player to make sure he’s getting what he deserves,” Krug said. “So obviously he’s had a couple guys now that have had to sit out to get what they deserved and he sticks up for what he believes in. So he’s a guy that I trust anything in my life with. He does a good job for his clients. Nylander’s got a good one for sure.”
Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas recently visited Switzerland to speak with Nylander face-to-face, to no avail. There’s no telling how or when their situation will end. Leaks about what’s being offered have been rare and insiders have pondered Nylander signing a shorter-term contract for more in average annual revenue (as if taking $6-7 million is a punishment) or eventually agreeing to a seven- or eight-year deal that would buy up some unrestricted free agent time.
The only deadline we know for sure is that if he’s not signed by Dec. 1 Nylander won’t be able to play in the NHL this season.
The entire NHL is watching how this will play out, Krug included.
“I know nothing about them,” Krug said. “But sometimes it goes both ways, right? Maybe the GM thinks ‘oh well this guy means business’ and maybe the player’s like ‘oh, I better get my butt over there.’ So it’s definitely an interesting situation.”