The contract standoff between the Toronto Maple Leafs and restricted free agent William Nylander shows no sign of ending anytime soon.
On Saturday, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported the two sides are still far apart dollar-wise. The Nylander camp hasn’t come down below $8 million annually while the Leafs prefer something between $6-million to $6.5 million per season.
Last Thursday, TSN’s Darren Dreger said the Leafs have received calls from other clubs inquiring into Nylander’s availability. General manager Kyle Dubas insists he’s not trading the 22-year-old forward but Dreger wondered if he might reconsider should this impasse drag on into November.
The Leafs have until December 1 to get Nylander under contract or he becomes ineligible for the remainder of the season. If he’s still unsigned when the calendar flips to November, the pressure will rise for both sides to get a deal hammered out.
This situation seems tailor-made for an offer sheet but Nylander doesn’t appear interested in signing one. Cap Friendly also indicates the Leafs have over $12 million in projected salary-cap space this season, giving them plenty of room to match an offer.
If the Nylander camp refuses to significantly lower their asking price, Dubas could start considering trade options as the Dec. 1 deadline approaches. His club’s early-season performance could also become a factor. If there’s a roster weakness that needs addressing, such as their defense corps, Nylander could become a valuable bargaining chip.
The Carolina Hurricanes could be among the suitors. On Sep. 28, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported they were among several teams to express interest in Nylander but were told he wasn’t available.
Should Nylander hit the trade market in the coming weeks, the Hurricanes could revisit their interest in him. On Sep. 19, LeBrun said Dubas had spoken with the Hurricanes regarding defenseman Justin Faulk, who’s been linked to the Leafs for months in the rumor mill.
While Dubas was apparently simply “kicking tires” on Faulk, there might be a trade fit there. The Hurricanes could use skilled depth at center plus they have plenty of cap space (over $15 million) to sign Nylander.
Like the Hurricanes, the Anaheim Ducks are loaded with good young defensemen but could use some younger, faster talent up front.
The Ducks began this season with veteran winger Corey Perry (knee surgery) sidelined for five months. Thirtysomething forwards Ryan Kesler (hip) and Patrick Eaves (shoulder) are still two or three weeks away from their season debuts, while 20-goal winger Ondrej Kase (concussion) is out indefinitely.
After being swept by the San Jose Sharks from the opening round of the 2018 playoffs, Ducks GM Bob Murray acknowledged his club had to get younger and faster. Nylander would help address that need but the Ducks might have to give up someone like Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson or Brandon Montour in return.
Perhaps the Winnipeg Jets could be a tempting trade option. After marching to the Western Conference Final last spring for the first time in franchise history, the Jets hope to contend for the Stanley Cup this season.
A potential problem area, however, is at second-line center. Trade-deadline acquisition Paul Stastny played a big role in getting the Jets to the conference final but he signed in July with the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Jets turned to veteran center Bryan Little as Stastny’s replacement but he might be a better fit on the third line. Should Little struggle on the second line, they could be forced into the trade market for a skilled two-way center.
Defenseman Jacob Trouba has a history of contentious contract negotiations with the Jets. He’s currently on a one-year, arbitration-awarded deal and once again becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. Rather than go through another difficult round of contract talks, perhaps the Jets will consider moving him.
It’s assumed the Jets won’t trade Trouba during this season but maybe they might reconsider if the Leafs were to offer up Nylander in a one-for-one swap.
Of course, this is merely speculation. The Leafs and Nylander could hammer out an agreement before Dec. 1, ensuring the youngster stays in Toronto for a long time.
Still, the longer this impasse drags on the more Nylander could become an attractive trade option. For the right offer, the Leafs could be willing to listen.