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Big names among 11 RFAs still unsigned

Any Leafs fan concerned that Nylander may be dangled as cap-saving trade bait breathed an audible sigh of relief when GM Kyle Dubas announced, “We can, and we will” keep all three young studs — Auston MatthewsMitchell Marner and Nylander — in the fold, as well as UFA prize John Tavares.

Nylander is coming off back-to-back 61-point seasons and should expect to put up at least that many again in 2018-19 skating on Matthews’ wing. Of the three, he’s the only must-sign in this shrinking off-season. Cap space isn’t an issue yet in Toronto, but Dubas’s first big extension must be made with the forthcoming raises for Marner and Matthews in mind.

“We’ll be very patient,” Dubas told Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek on the 31 Thoughts podcast in early July. “I always think that when a player is going to make a commitment of any length, particularly when they’re signing up long-term, that we need to sit with the player and make sure that the player knows where we’re going as a program and what our vision and our plans are so those are discussions that I’ll have with each of the individual players that are due extensions here or are due contracts for next season.”

Nylander addressed his situation on Aug. 1 at Smashfest.

“Of course, I want long-term. That’s what I want to do, but we’ll take it slow, day by day, and see what happens,” Nylander said.

OK, but what if the paperwork isn’t signed when camp opens?

“I’ve not thought about that. That’s between my agent and Kyle. I’m waiting to see what happens,” Nylander replied. “They’re going to negotiate it, so I don’t think that’ll be a problem.”

The sides continue to work towards a solution, but details have been kept mum.

With only a week until medicals, Nylander has yet to join his mates in Toronto for the team’s informal skates.

“Willy loves it here,” teammate Nazem Kadri recently told the Toronto Sun. “He’s a tremendous player and he’ll get a contract one way or another.

“All the guys up for contract renewals, they just have to be patient and they understand that.”


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