Wayne Gretzky says he wouldn’t be holding out if he was in William Nylander’s position

William Nylander’s contractual standoff with the Toronto Maple Leafs is still going strong into mid-November, and the December deadline for him to sign a new deal is quickly approaching. 

There have already been plenty of takes regarding Nylander’s situation — the 22-year-old star forward and restricted free agent is angling for a long-term, big-money contract instead of a shorter, team-friendly bridge deal — and it seems to be a polarizing debate. Some seem to think he’s being selfish and a bad teammate for holding out and missing (at least) the first month and a half of the season. Others believe he’s well within his right to seek long-term stability in his new contract.

This week, we found out which camp The Great One is in.

NHL legend Wayne Gretzky weighed in on the Nylander saga during a guest spot on TSN 1050’s Leaf Lunch this Monday. He was quite candid with his thoughts.

“First and foremost, [Nylander’s] got to listen to his mom and dad. That’s who you lean on…They have one thought in mind, and that’s to take care of their son,” Gretzky said. “So, lean on your parents (and obviously the advice from your advisers, your agent.)

“But listen, ultimately, at the end of the day, when I was that age I just wanted to play hockey. Ultimately, I think he has to sit down and say ‘Look, I’m playing in a great city, I’m playing with a great organization, I’m playing with an Original Six team. Do I really want to not be there?’

And they’ve got a chance. They have a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup. When they have players like Auston Matthews and John Tavares, and the goaltender playing as well as he is, and they got a good coach. I mean, listen, it’s a pretty nice place to play.

I can’t speak for him because he’s made his decision, but if I was that young man, I would have been there September 15.”

There are plenty of people who are on Gretzky’s side in this debate, but Nylander doesn’t appear to be letting the outside noise affect the way he’s approaching the situation. He’s held firm in his stance and, as a result, the holdout has lasted longer than most expected. 

Regardless of which side you fall on, there seemingly has to be a resolution soon. Nylander must sign a new contract by December 1 to be eligible to play this season. It would be extremely unfortunate to see one of the best young forwards in the game lose an entire season due to a contractual dispute, so hopefully some urgency will pave the way to a new deal in the coming weeks. 

The big question is whether that deal will come with the Leafs or with another team.

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