It is heir apparent that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be getting offers league wide for the services of William Nylander. Some GMs will surely try to take advantage of Nylander’s unsignability to the Leafs. But as we have witnessed in the past, Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is a shrewd, outside the box thinker when it comes to trades. One shouldn’t imagine that Dubas will feel forced into making a less than optimal deal when trading Nylander.
Best case scenario: Leafs sign Nylander or he plays in Europe for the rest of the year to be signed at a later date. So, alternately what may transpire should the Leafs trade one of their promising young assets?
We know most teams can put together a prospect and draft pick package that would be attractive enough for the Leafs to jump at, but not every team can take on an $8 million salary this season. Let’s look at some teams that the Leafs could turn their own Nylander misfortunes around with a trade:
Vegas Golden Knights
The Knights are not having the type of season as expected to follow-up last season. Most expected a drop off, but not like this. It doesn’t help that key contributors from last season, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, are struggling in the goals department. In addition, with a new 4yr/$28 million extension signed, Max Pacioretty looks terrible. Free Agent signee Paul Stastny is now injured and the Vegas Golden Knights are going nowhere fast.
Outside of Alex Tuch, the expansion process filled Vegas’ roster with a core of mid-late players in their twenties. Since Vegas didn’t build itself around one young star player, Nylander could fill that role. Nylander is also a dream when promoting Vegas Golden Knights games. Nylander is young, good looking and fits the “golden boy” charm that could sell extra tickets.
Vegas would need to ship dollars to the Leafs, but they have assets that would be very attractive to Toronto. Although the Leafs ought to try to pry away one of Vegas’ defencemen in Miller, Schmidt or Theodore, a struggling Karlsson would be a good start as a trade return. His $5.25 million contract after a 43 goal season would be a nice asset to the Leafs and he is still an RFA after this season. Karlsson would excel surrounded by the talented Leafs forward core.
The Blackhawks just fired their coach, are on the verge of falling behind the pack and are staring close at back to back seasons of missing the playoffs. Changes are coming, whether on the ice or in the front office.
Still, Chicago have won 3 cups since 2010, so they can’t complain too much. They still have an experienced, talented core group. Chicago’s issue is that they have “Stanley Cup” contracts, rewarding players for past successes. In a salary cap world, this does not translate well to current roster configurations and adds zero flexibility moving forward in a rebuild. Toronto could assist Chicago in acquiring valuable contracts, ie. Connor Brown, in return.
A Nylander trade with Chicago would be a big trade with potentially $5.3 million/yr Duncan Keith as part of the package; or an even bigger trade could include a struggling Toews, should Chicago really want to blow things up and start the rebuild. Without dismantling both rosters, an experienced defenceman in Keith would fit on the Leafs, and his contract value is not far off of the Leafs’ current structure.
Other than goalies, quickly name 5 players on the Florida Panthers…Yes, it can be a tough task. Florida has a steady group of forwards that get the job done, but perhaps outside of Barkov, they don’t have that flashy, dynamic star power player that Nylander can be. Florida is always on the verge of the playoffs, so wins matter. Florida is a team that does not draw crowds, so more memorable players are needed. Having a successful cross state rival does not look good either when trying to market your team to the state of Florida. Florida needs to win, now!
Florida has always been a team that needs to watch its dollars spent. Contract mistakes are front office job killers. Dollar wise, Florida is invested heavily on goaltending and its defense, but star defenseman Arron Ekblad is starting the 2018/19 season terribly offensively, yet he is on year 2 of an 8yr/$60 million contract (an average of 7.5 million/yr).
Would dangling a flashy Nylander in front of Florida pry their prized defensemen away to Toronto? The Panthers front office has to be concerned with the lack of production Ekblad is displaying. If presented well, this trade can happen. Ekblad might welcome the change of scenery as well.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues are struggling this season. They can score but can’t defend. The Blues are in arguably the toughest division in hockey, the Central. They have $6 million/yr Jay Bouwmeester sitting in the press box most nights. The Blues spent huge long-term dollars this off-season and have yet to see the results they want. They are a few more losses away from firing their coach, and being out of playoff contention at the quarter point of the season.
The Blues are against the cap, and quickly need to correct their defensive issues. Dumping Bouwmeester would give them cap space and roster flexibility.
The Leafs have financial muscle to bury contracts and cap space to acquire them. In a three-way Nylander deal, the Leafs can include the Blues with their picks and prospects to lure a bigger return along with Nylander. The Leafs can then take on the final year of Bouwmeester’s contract, since cap dollars aren’t needed until next season to sign Matthews and Marner.
Simply put: the Oilers have the best young talent on the planet. Conner McDavid is so good, very few players can play alongside him adequately. As Austin Matthews’ winger, Nylander has proven that he can play and succeed with an elite player. Although Edmonton lacks cap space, the Oilers ought to do whatever it takes to surround McDavid with top notch talent.
The Leafs would be doing the Oilers a favour by trading them Nylander. And since Edmonton started handing out stupid ground breaking contracts to Draisaitl and McDavid creating havoc in the Nylander negotiations, the Leafs should want a King’s ransom in return. Darnell Nurse should be included in any trade with Edmonton, he’ll fit right in with the youth movement on the D-core in Toronto.