Today was a good day for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as far as contract signings were concerned. No, I’m not talking about Roman Polak getting a Professional Tryout; the fanbase is at arms about that, but I still don’t believe it ends in him signing with the team for the actual season. As I wrote a few weeks ago, Toronto has to help him recover from his injury and they’ll likely help pump his value to other teams out of respect, but I can’t see him being fast enough or skilled enough to keep up with everybody else fighting for ice time on the bottom pair.

No, the best news for the Leafs came out of Boston:

Now, you might be curious as to why a divisional rival settling with their non-reporting superstar young forward might be beneficial to the blue and white. The answer lies in the timeline of their own young stars.

It is well known that Pastrnak and William Nylander are super best friends, dating back to their time together in the Södertälje SK organization as teenagers. Not just that, but the two are only separated by about three weeks in age, meaning that since Pastrnak took his jump from his native Czech Republic to Sweden as a 15-year-old, the two have had career pathways that significantly mirror each others.

      David Pastrnak William Nylander
Season Age League GP G A PTS PTS/G GP G A PTS PTS/G
2016/17 20 NHL 75 34 36 70 0.93 81 22 39 61 0.75
2015/16 19 NHL 51 15 11 26 0.51 22 6 7 13 0.59
19 AHL 3 1 3 4 1.33 38 18 27 45 1.18
2014/15 18 NHL 46 10 17 27 0.59
18 AHL 25 11 17 28 1.12 37 14 18 32 0.86
18 SHL 21 8 12 20 0.95
18 WJC 5 1 6 7 1.4 7 3 7 10 1.43
2013/14 17 Allsven 36 8 16 24 0.67 35 15 12 27 0.77
2012/13 16 SuperElit 36 12 17 29 0.81 27 15 28 43 1.59
16 Allsven 11 1 2 3 0.27 8 4 2 6 0.75

Combining the “I want what my buddy got” factor with the fact that Pastrnak is likely Nylander’s best statistical comparable with the largest parallel sample, and there was no doubt that this was the contract to keep your eyes on for the sake of the Leafs’ long term salary cap aspirations this summer. Some looked at Connor McDavid, even though he should on a tier straight up incomparable to any other NHL player. Leon Draisaitl’s deal was brought up, but that came with its share of red flags that saw many pre-projecting an overpayment befitting of the situation but not his peers.

While Pastrnak’s path to getting this deal was not an easy one, a situation that saw trade gossip, KHL gossip, and speculation that he’d miss out on training camp while trying to sort out his status, it now gives Toronto a barometer to really open discussions with Nylander. Whether their 21-year-old winger decides to play out the year in hopes of finding another gear or signs an extension beforehand is anybody’s guess, but it’ll be hard for him to argue for much more than this contract without having a borderline Hart Trophy season in 2017/18. If he does, all power to him, but if not, Toronto is in a good spot.

If the Leafs are able to successfully able to use the Pastrnak deal as leverage for Nylander, that should create a domino effect to close out their core. Nylander’s deal instantly becomes a comparable for Mitch Marner when he becomes due for an extension, due to their interchangeability in the organization ranks. When both of those are out of the way, the pressure will be on Auston Matthews to not greatly exceed them, unless he truly becomes so out of reach compared to them that such a raise would be indisputable.

All things considered, the Bruins playing hardball and coming out ahead bodes well for the Leafs. While some were worried about a doomsday where the “Big Three” walk out with $30 million in combined cap hit, a victory for their rivals may become a victory for them, making something along the lines of $25 million or even slightly less seem vaguely possible. It could be as much as two years until we know for sure, but there’s reason for optimism here.

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