It’s day 17236 and the Toronto Maple Leafs still have not signed William Nylander.
Tensions have been rising between fans and the Toronto Maple Leafs lately, as the team seems to still be hard at work negotiating a new contract with RFA William Nylander. Most fans seem to be in the team’s corner (which makes sense, the cheaper the contract, the better odds of building a Cup winning roster). The disparaging of Nylander as soft or greedy, however, is a bit much. Regardless of anyone’s opinion, Nylander is an elite winger in the NHL.
As many armchair GM’s and analysts have been discussing lately, the Maple Leafs may want to explore trade options for the young forward. Now, they most definitely should not be trading Nylander, but in case the do, let’s explore a few options.
There are two things to note in this scenario. The Leafs need a solid top four defenseman and the Leafs need to find a team who wants a young, top line winger. The job here is to find out who the best trading partner is.
When you take these factors into account, there’s one team that seems to rise above the others, a team that needs offense and have defense to spare. If a trade MUST go down, maybe trading with them wouldn’t be such a bad thing. That team, is the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes could be an interesting match for the Maple Leafs because they have a surplus of defensemen and they could be looking for some offense.
. After trading away Jeff Skinner this offseason, they’re surely looking to replace the 25-30 goal hole he left in their lineup. Not to mention, the Canes are off to a pretty good start to the season, so it makes sense if they want to try to improve their roster for a potential playoff run this season.
Surplus of Top 4 Defencemen
Here’s where the Leafs come in. The Hurricanes, on paper, seem like they would be the perfect match for the Leafs because they have a surplus of top 4 defenseman that they can trade away.
There have been rumours all summer about Justin Faulk being actively shopped by the Canes. They’re possibly open to trading defencemen. Justin Faulk would not be a good swap for William Nylander. With Rielly, Gardiner, Dermott, Zaitsev and Liljegren on the horizon, the Leafs aren’t hurting for offensive, puck-moving defenseman.
In fact, the game of Justin Faulk is similar to Jake Gardiner’s, only Gardiner puts up better defensive stats, so I don’t think Faulk would be very popular in Toronto. Besides which, Justin Faulk alone wouldn’t come close to matching Nyalnder’s value.
If the Hurricanes have the moveable assets on their blue line and they’re looking for a winger like Nylander, a potential trade could make that much more sense.
Dougie Hamilton is one of the best defenseman in the NHL. Hamilton is an excellent defenseman, and I would love to add him to the team if the Leafs could. However, I highly doubt the Canes want to trade him away. He’s one of the few defenseman it would make sense to trade Nylander for, but that isn’t going to happen.
This leaves two defenceman I’d be OK with the Leafs picking up. First up is Jacob Slavin, the 24-year-old blue liner who’s been running the top pairing with Dougie Hamilton.
He’s young, he’s reliable and his defensive game is excellent. He also leads the team in TOI, averaging over 22 minutes a night. Most importantly, his contract is very friendly, with a cap hit of just $5.3 million over the next 7 years. He can become a mainstay on the blue line if a trade did occur. As good as Slavin is, a one-for-one trade here would be brutal for the Leafs. As the Oilers have demonstrated, you do not trade elite forwards when they are 22 in exchange for an older, top-four defensive blue-liner. Where the Leafs to acquire Slavin, the Hurricanes would have to add to the package significantly.
My second pick is a popular choice among Leafs fans and analytics fans. Brett Pesce is an excellent young defenceman for the Hurricanes. He’s strong on the puck, very defensive and has a great contract clocking in at just $4.025 million for the next six years. But again, a one for one trade here is absolutely ridiculous for the Leafs.
Either of these guys would be a great pickup for the Leafs. However, in the end, I’d ultimately want to keep Nylander here in Toronto. Unless a Seth Jones like situation rears it’s head, trading Nylander is a non-starter.
This situation makes me think back to the Taylor Hall trade. I doubt anyone would go back and trade him again for an OK top four defenceman. I really hope the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t force a trade here and I hope Nylander stays a Leaf. But if Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs truly can’t get a contract signed by Nylander though, at least there’s have options.