Though it had already been reported by many sources, Carolina Hurricanes AGM Don Waddell admitted today on TSN Radio that his club has been in touch with the Toronto Maple Leafs about a potential William Nylander trade. They’re not the only ones though, as Pierre LeBrun reports that up to a third of the league has already contacted Toronto with at least passing interest in the restricted free agent forward. That’s not surprising, given that there is now just over two weeks remaining before the December 1st deadline that would make Nylander ineligible to play this season.
Waddell did admit that there is interest in the player, but hasn’t talked to Nylander’s agent Lewis Gross about a contract. He doesn’t think that’s necessary until the Hurricanes and Maple Leafs were actually going down the trade route, something that still hasn’t happened despite the growing concern that Nylander and Toronto GM Kyle Dubas won’t be able to get something done.
Still, there has been little information leaked from the negotiations between the Maple Leafs and Nylander themselves, other than communication is ongoing between the two parties. Much more of the speculation surrounding the situation is coming from other teams who are watching carefully to see what happens over the next few weeks. Waddell in fact referenced some of the Hurricanes own players who will be directly affected by the contract Nylander signs, likely meaning Sebastian Aho who is a restricted free agent next summer. Aho looks like he’ll be going into his own contract negotiation with even better numbers than his Maple Leafs counterpart, and though the two sides both seem interested in a long-term deal, will likely be watching carefully to see what the Toronto forward can negotiate before submitting terms of their own.
In Toronto, management seems to be standing their ground and not giving into a player who they obviously want back in the lineup as soon as possible. With Auston Matthews out with a shoulder injury, John Tavares and Mitch Marner have had to carry the load offensively over the last few games. Those two certainly have the skill to do it, but head coach Mike Babcock put it plainly when asked about how his team is affected by the absence of Matthews and Nylander.
Obviously, we want Willy on the team. We want Matty to be playing every night and Willy to be playing every night. When you go around the league and you play against good teams, it really shows when you’re not quite as deep as you could be.
The Maple Leafs are currently sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division, but have a real chance to separate from the pack as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins deal with injuries to key players. Toronto has been winning even without two of their top forwards, and will be even more dangerous when (and if) they return to the lineup. The Nylander situation is hanging over the team’s head right now, but it won’t be long until there is a resolution of some kind.