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Restricted free agent William Nylander speaks to reporters in Toronto, Ont., on April 27, 2018.COLE BURSTON/The Canadian Press

Now that his signing deadline is one week away, the noise around William Nylander is deafening, all bound up in terms such as bridge deal, average annual value (AAV) and cap hit.

But you can’t help feel this game of brinkmanship with the Toronto Maple Leafs will come down to one simple thing – Nylander the younger will only sign a new NHL contract with the Leafs when Nylander the elder decides it’s the right one. And that is no sure thing.

Nylander the elder is Michael Nylander, father to both William and Buffalo Sabres prospect Alexander. While William Nylander’s agent of record is Lewis Gross, a respected figure in his line of work, one consistent signal beaming from the Nylander camp since contract negotiations started last summer is that Michael is the one calling the shots.

A look at the senior Nylander’s history as a player in the NHL from 1992 to 2009 is not encouraging if you are a Leaf fan hoping for a resolution before the deadline. Under NHL rules, a restricted free agent such as Nylander must sign a contract by 5 p.m. Eastern Time Dec. 1 or he cannot play for the rest of the season.

In his 16 NHL seasons, Michael Nylander played for seven teams, including a second go-round with the Washington Capitals. The common thread running through every stop was contentious contract negotiations. A search through the written record of his career also turns up lots of comments from unidentified teammates to the effect of Michael Nylander always put his own goals and his contract ahead of the team.

Looming over the negotiations involving William and the Leafs is the thought that surely the Nylanders would not want to risk having no income at all for the 2018-19 season – anywhere between US$4-million and US$7-million depending on the type of contract agreement – and will agree to a two- or three-year bridge contract at the very least. But that is to ignore Michael Nylander’s history.

Michael never hesitated to withhold his services or force a trade to get what he wanted. Indeed, more than one GM probably traded him simply to be rid of a colossal pain in the butt. Just check his dealings with the Edmonton Oilers for a sense of what he is willing to do. In this case, it was to take a contract with another team that paid less money.

In July of 2007, Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe announced he reached a contract agreement with Nylander, who was coming off an 83-point season with the New York Rangers, and his agent Mike Gillis for four years and a total of US$22-million. However, before Lowe received the signed copies of the contract from Nylander and Gillis he learned through the media Nylander had subsequently signed a four-year deal with the Capitals for US$19.5-million, $2.5-million less than the Oilers were going to pay him.

This was embarrassing for the Oilers on two counts. Not only had they been rejected by a star player who was not keen to live in frigid Edmonton, but they were dumped by one who had already agreed to play for the Oilers and took less money to go somewhere else.

Michael Nylander took a lot of heat for the move, but he didn’t budge. And no one could make him because the contract with Edmonton was not signed.

Now, there are a couple of things that are different with the William Nylander situation. For one, there is more money at stake. A seven-year contract for him is expected to pay somewhere between US$6-million and US$7-million. Even a bridge deal for two or three years, which would take Nylander, 22, beyond his qualifying year for salary arbitration and put him in line for a big raise on his next contract as long as his stats hold up, would pay upward of US$5-million.

The other change is that for most of his career, Michael Nylander did not have to contend with a salary cap. That came along in 2005, when he was starting his last four seasons in the NHL. Not that working with a salary cap seems to be any concern for him, since the ask on a seven-year deal for William was reportedly US$8-million.

So forget all the talk of long-term and bridge contracts and AAV and what they mean to either side. This boils down to what Papa Bear wants.

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