William Nylander didn't have the best season with Toronto in 2018-19. After sitting out more than a quarter of the season during a contract holdout, Nylander went on to tally only seven goals and 27 points in 54 games for the Maple Leafs.
It was a disappointing lack of production from a young winger coming off back-to-back 20-goal, 60-point campaigns. Now, he's seeking a fresh start, and he's starting with a change of jersey number.
Nylander announced Monday he'll be wearing No. 88 next season. It's his second number change in Toronto; he wore No. 39 during his rookie season before switching to No. 29 for the next three.
While No. 88 will be a new look for Nylander in the NHL, it's not a number he's unfamiliar with. He wore the digits during his time with MODO of the Swedish Hockey League before coming over to North America after Toronto drafted him with the eighth overall pick in 2014.
Nylander, 23, has also worn No. 88 throughout most of his international career for the Swedish national team.
He'll become only the second player to wear the jersey number for the Leafs, joining Eric Lindros, who wore it in his lone season with Toronto during 2005-2006.
Nylander knows his quest for a fresh slate could prove to be an annoyance for fans who showed loyalty by purchasing his No. 29 (or even No. 39) sweaters, and he's doing what he can to repay that loyalty ... literally. With his announcement on Monday, the winger also promised to cover the cost of re-cresting any Nylander sweaters bought before the switch, at least at one specific location in Toronto.
It's the kind of gesture that Nylander can afford to make after cashing in on that holdout last year, which culminated in a six-year deal worth $45 million.
Between the holdout and his lack of scoring last season, Nylander's stock is currently an all-time low in Toronto. He's still a tremendous talent and maybe this switch will prove to be a great step to helping him find a fresh start. But if he doesn't elevate his game, there's still going to be a target on his back regardless of what number is alongside it.