TORONTO — William Nylander must be struggling with his decision not to be playing hockey with the Toronto Maple Leafs, says David Pastrnak, the Boston Bruins right wing and close friend of the restricted free agent forward.
“One hundred percent, it’s difficult; when we play together we both love hockey,” Pastrnak said Monday before the Bruins faced the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, TSN4, NESN, NHL.TV). “It’s definitely hard for him to not play right now but I guess that’s what he’s going to do. I really feel hopefully it’s going to be over soon so he can play some hockey.”
If Nylander, 22, does not sign prior to 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 1, he will be ineligible to play in the NHL this season. He’s had 61 points in each of the past two seasons.
Nylander and Pastrnak were teammates with Sodertalje SK in Sweden from 2012-14. The two would often get together before their NHL teams faced each other, usually getting dinner the night before. That has not been the case this season before two games between the Bruins and Maple Leafs thus far.
“I miss him around here,” Pastrnak said. “I wish him well and hopefully he’s going to be signed soon. I do (talk to him) but I don’t talk to him about this stuff. I kind of knew how it was last year a little bit, everybody just trying to talk to you about contracts. We don’t really talk about it and just keep things normal.”
Pastrnak understands what Nylander is facing, having gone through a contract negotiation with the Bruins prior to the 2017-18 season after completing his three-year entry level contract. He missed one day of training camp in 2017 before signing a six-year contract with an average annual value of $6.67 million.
What was the breaking point for him?
“I just wanted to play,” Pastrnak said. “My agent came up to me and said this is what you should sign, so I signed and went to Boston.”
Missing one day of camp was difficult for Pastrnak, so he can imagine how frustrated Nylander feels having missed his 25th game Monday. Nonetheless, he can understand why Nylander is willing to miss time if he thinks it will help him attain the contract he wants.
“You’ve got to give him some respect,” Pastrnak said. “He’s sitting out for a while and he’s patient. Whatever it is at the end of the day, you have to be patient and just get what you think you deserve. It’s for your whole life.”
Pastrnak had 70 points (34 goals, 36 assists) in 75 games in 2016-17. He had 80 points (35 goals, 45 assists) in 82 games last season, the first of his six-year contract, and has 26 points (17 goals, nine assists) in 23 games this season.
Pastrnak does not regret signing the contract, even while his on-ice production continues to grow.
“Not at all,” Pastrnak said. “If you ask me when I was 15 years old I would be playing for $6 million a year when I’m 22, I don’t think you would be saying the truth. Just a dream come true for me and I’m happy for what I’m getting. I could be playing in Czech for a couple hundred bucks a month. I’m really happy.”