William Nylander addressed the media on Monday afternoon after completing his medicals to begin the process of returning to the lineup.
What was the most challenging aspect for you over there over the course of the last three months?
Nylander: I think it was going and practising by yourself and missing the guys and just wanting to be here and playing.
How nervous were you on Saturday as it came down to the wire?
Nylander: The last 30 minutes there were crazy. I think the contract was signed at 4:53. It was crazy. Couldn’t believe it.
Were there times where you were wondering if you would be pulling on a Leafs jersey this year?
Nylander: To me, I always wanted to be here and that was not a question for me throughout the entire process. It was a long negotiation to get to where both sides were happy.
You know what it takes to be ready to play in this league. Do you think you are there right now?
Nylander: It’s always, at the beginning of the season… now I am kind of coming into training camp. The start of any season is going to take a few games to get back into the swing of things and stuff. Otherwise, I feel like I am in great shape. But it’s always in game situations and stuff like that where it will come into play.
How soon do you think you’ll play?
Nylander: I haven’t thought about it yet. I haven’t met the coaching staff yet. I have been doing medicals and stuff today. Hopefully I will see them on Monday.
You faced expectations your entire career. How much different is it now?
Nylander: Now I am just happy to be back and being able to play and do what I love. Obviously, there are going to be expectations. I think that you guys have expectations and I have expectations for myself. There will be pressure on me from myself as well.
What was it like to be reunited with your teammates? Mitch mentioned that he welcomed you with the money dance.
Nylander: It was really fun to see them yesterday. I missed them throughout the entire process. Talking to them, it was fun to get back together. It felt like I hadn’t missed any time yesterday.
Kyle said that you called him on Saturday within the hour. What was the turning point for you when you said you were ready to sign?
Nylander: I don’t know. It was getting into the last, I think, 40 minutes before the deadline. I was talking to my agent. I said, “Let’s just call him.” That phone call, I think, really got everything done.
Why were you so determined? Not a lot of players go that close to the deadline, certainly not in recent memory. Why was this so important to you?
Nylander: I think it was a big part of my future. I wanted to be a Leaf for a long, long while here. Six years, looking forward, it is going to be great to be here.
You’ve had a chance to watch the team just like everyone else, like every fan. How excited are you now to be back in the jersey and helping this team?
Nylander: It is a special feeling every time you put that jersey on. I can’t wait to wear it for the first time this year. I am looking forward to it.
Were you watching the games from Sweden? Were you able to see them?
Nylander: I saw a few. Maybe like four or five games. It was so, so late… or it was actually early morning, so I couldn’t really watch too many of them.
Keeping this team’s core together is important, obviously. Where do you kind of weigh getting what you feel you deserve but also knowing what Kyle was up against signing Mitch and Matthews and keeping everyone in the fold?
Nylander: Yeah, there was big talk about the entire process and fitting me in with everybody else inside the cap. That was a big part of the process.
What surprised you, if anything, over the past two months?
Nylander: I don’t know. It was just a tough process. It was for sure a learning experience that I don’t ever want to go through again. But I think it made me stronger as a person. Wanting to be here and finally getting it done was a huge relief.
Was it tough going through something like that and watching how well the team was playing?
Nylander: I mean, I was really happy. I was like, “If I come back now…” I mean, the team is doing well and there is not going to be as much pressure on me to play be playing really well. I am happy.
Is there pressure to live up to the number on your contract?
Nylander: You guys will have pressure on me and I will have pressure on myself. I want to do better than I’ve been doing the past seasons. I am not just happy to be where I am at. I want to keep getting better and dominating more and more.
How did the medical go?
Nylander: I think it went well [laughs].
There was plenty of speculation about your father’s involvement in this contract negotiations and that maybe he was driving a hard bargain. Is that fair? Was it warranted? What was his involvement in this process?
Nylander: I mean, I know that my dad only really talked to Kyle, I think, the last seven minutes there because he was on his computer printing and scanning the contract. I think that was the only time.
Throughout the entire process… I am 22. I mean, it’s a big part of my life. It’s not just my dad but my mom, too. I lean on them for support and also my friends who were back home. A lot of friends were playing hockey elsewhere and I had a few friends back home that meant a lot. The family was a huge part just in helping me stay calm throughout the process.