Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Cash In Their Best Trade Chip?

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 17: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks to make a check against the Ottawa Senators during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on February 17, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 17: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks to make a check against the Ottawa Senators during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on February 17, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a slump heading into the trade deadline, and the question must be asked: Is it time to cash in their best trade chip?

William Nylander is the Toronto Maple Leafs most polarizing player, and also their best trade chip thanks in large part to a relatively friendly contract. Looking at contracts that compare to Nylander in the league, he is pretty good bang for buck, but in Toronto, much like marmite you either love him or you hate him.

Whether that comes from the fact that Nylander’s contract negotiation was blown out of proportion, or the perception he goes missing too often, Nylander cannot shake the vitriol that ultimately stems from his contract.

Yet, like it or not, William Nylander is still the most valuable trade asset the Toronto Maple Leafs possess. Yes, there is Nick Robertson or Rasmus Sandin who are younger and cheaper, but less established. Trading someone like Mitch Marner or John Tavares would generate the most return but there is no chance of that happening.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Best Trade Chip

Even though it is obvious, it bears repeating, if there’s a remote chance that any of the ‘Big Four’ get traded Nylander is still the most ‘tradeable’. The Swede is undeniably talented, and for all of the Toronto Maple Leafs fans who complain about him, he is still in the upper echelon of players in the NHL.

Nylander would be an instant fit in any Top 6 in the league and for most teams he would roll straight onto the top line. At $6.9 million he also has the cap hit that makes it the possible to work on most teams whereas the other three don’t.

Why would the Toronto Maple Leafs move William Nylander this year? Well, the short answer is that they won’t. Skating the same amount of minutes as Marner since the start of last season, Nylander has three less points and ten more goals at 5v5. He is 11th in all-situation goals since the start of last season.  He currently leads or is near the top, of all on-ice stats on the Leafs. (stats naturalstattrick.com).

You don’t generally see teams move one of their best players midseason, let alone throwing a spanner in the works for a team with a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup. Add to that Kyle Dubas seems averse to team altering blockbuster trades, which this would be.

The reason for asking the Nylander trade question is the fact that the Leafs are desperately hanging on to first place in the North Division. While that lead looked unassailable two weeks ago the team, despite playing well in a few of those games, have lost five of their last six.

After an extraordinary run and some ‘puck luck’ the Leafs were destined to come back down to earth, but the team looks stale and void of ideas. Maybe that refresh could be Wayne Simmonds returning, but a trade can spike that too, and the trade deadline is fast approaching.

Next. Leafs Trade Deadline Wish List. dark

Most would expect that a team with Matthews, Marner and Tavares could power a team to a Stanley Cup on its own. Nylander is a valuable component of the Toronto Maple Leafs and has proved he could be a game breaker, but could his value translate into something that would help the team more?