Seven new air- and moisture-stable nickel complexes bearing flexible bulky NHC (N-heterocyclic carbene) ancillary ligands (NHC = IPr, IPrTol, IPrOMe, IPent) are reported. Using experimentally determined crystal structures, the steric environments of [Ni(NHC)CpCl] complexes were analyzed. A survey of their catalytic activity in Buchwald-Hartwig arylamination has been performed. In comparison to less sterically demanding analogues (NHC = IMes, SIMes, IPr, SIPr), an increase in the ligand bulkiness was found to correlate to a dramatic enhancement of the C-N bond formation efficiency. Finally, the catalytic activity of the most active precatalyst, [Ni(IPrOMe)CpCl], was further explored and the scope and limitations of this complex were examined.
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