By now, we all know the situation involving the Toronto Maple Leafs and their star winger William Nylander. The restricted free agent still remains unsigned even as we get closer and closer to the hard deadline of December 1st — the day that Nylander must be signed in order to play in the NHL this season.
Until now, the Leafs have maintained the stance that they are not interested in anything other than signing the 22-year-old. As of this weekend, it appears as though that has changed.
Saturday night, Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada reported that Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas has informed other teams to not only let him know who is interested in trading for Nylander, but to prepare formal offers.
To many, this sounds like it’s open season on Nylander trade negotiations, but it’s far more likely that Dubas wanted this “news” out there as an attempt to force Nylander’s hand and get a contract signed.
It’s still far more likely Nylander that plays in Toronto this season over anywhere else, but trade speculation is fun. [Editor’s Note: NO IT IS NOT, TOM - Hardev] This is especially the case when it’s a trade that makes sense, and the Colorado Avalanche trading for William Nylander makes all the sense in the world.
While the Avalanche are able to ice one of the most dangerous lines in the league on a nightly basis. Being able to spread out the offense to the lower lines has been a major issue over the past two seasons. On most nights, the line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to generating scoring chances. Beyond them, not much happens.
Trading for William Nylander would instantly make the Avalanche a two-line team, regardless of who he plays with. He is a dangerous playmaker whose contribution to team offense goes well beyond his goal and assist numbers, and well beyond Auston Matthews.
Last season, William Nylander would have been Colorado’s best player when it comes to offensive zone entry passes. Yes, better than the superstar that should have won the Hart Trophy.
Nylanders numbers would have put him second behind MacKinnon for all offensive zone entries.
That’s what the Avalanche need. Someone who can create team offense as much as he can score. MacKinnon is great at it, Alexander Kerfoot is pretty good too, but beyond that, the Avs don’t have a player that can create offense particularly well.
Rantanen is a great finisher, a tremendous point producer and an incredibly valuable player for the Avalanche, but he is not an overly efficient play-driver.
Nylander makes players around him better in a way MacKinnon does. His possession numbers and shot assist rates would make him at least as valuable to the team as Rantanen. Just in a different way.
William Nylander would instantly become Colorado’s best winger in a number of aspects of the game. He would drastically improve the team, and at 22-years-old, would fit into the age bracket with the rest of the core.
Of course adding William Nylander would be a tremendous move for Joe Sakic and the Avalanche, but at what cost?
It was widely speculated that when the Maple Leafs called about Tyson Barrie during the summer of 2017, Sakic said the cost would be either Nylander or Mitchell Marner.
With that in mind, one can assume that Sakic’s offer would likely be something along the lines of Tyson Barrie plus draft picks. A decent offer, but one that Kyle Dubas would likely rebuff.
Does Tyson Jost plus another piece make sense?
Tyson Jost plus Cale Makar makes a lot of sense in that you’re the Avalanche are improving their lineup while giving up some future depth.
Before you scoff at that return, remember that no one values a team’s prospects higher than their own fans. Cale Makar is a tremendous talent, but if you can give up an unknown for a known elite talent, an NHL GM will make the trade every time.
That said, given where both the Leafs and Avalanche are right now, a trade of Nylander for Jost and Makar is one that neither team would likely be too keen on.
Maybe something like Jost, Colin Wilson and Colorado’s 2018 first-round pick? But does that get it done from Toronto’s perspective? I guess it depends on how close they get to the deadline and how desperate Dubas is to make sure he gets a deal done.
From a pure talent standpoint, Jost and Makar would likely be the answer and while a lot of people might scoff at that package, you have to remember, proven NHL talent is always worth more than potential - especially when you’re talking about young players that are great before even getting to their prime.
The other aspect of this scenaro is the contract Nylander will need.
By all accounts, Nylander’s agent is using Leon Draisiatl’s eight-year, $68 million contract as the benchmark. While Nylander is good, he’s not an AAV of $8.5 million good; there are only a couple of wingers in the NHL that are.
Toronto is said to be countering with an offer in the $6-6.5m a year range. Less than Nylander is worth, but a contract that fits into the salary structure set out by David Pastrnak and Nikolaj Ehlers.
It’s not hard to believe that an offer worth some in the range $42 million over six years gets a contract signed.
That’s a deal that is really good for Nylander, but also one that fits well into Colorado’s long term salary structure.
It locks up Nylander for the bulk of Colorado’s contention window, while at the same time it gives a decent baseline for the negotiations with Rantanen this summer.
Given where the Avalanche currently sit, they have more salary cap flexibility than just about every other team going forward. A decent contract for Nylander and Rantanen would in no way hamper their ability to keep guys like Sam Girard, Alex Kerfoot, Nikita Zadorov, or any of the other players that would need extensions over the next four or five years.
It’s fun to be an Armchair General Manager, and thanks to Friedman’s report from this weekend, every fan base gets to do it.
Elite NHLers like William Nylander don’t become available very often. Especially when they’re still only 22-years-old. The reality of him being traded to Colorado (or anywhere) is still a long shot, but it’s a lot closer today than it ever has been.
If Kyle Dubas has truly made Nylander available for trade, Joe Sakic can’t be afraid to put together a substantial offer. It would likely be an offer that would scare a lot of Avalanche fans - but William Nylander is absolutely worth it.
Watching Nylander’s beatiful brand of hockey being played in a Colorado Avalanche jersey would be a dream. Giving up guys like Tyson Jost and/or Cale Makar might be a nightmare to some.
As he proved with the Matt Duchene deal a year ago, Sakic isn’t afraid to pounce when the time is right. He might not make a ton of moves, but when he can swing a blockbuster trade, Sakic can hit a home run.
They don’t come along very frequently, but this might be another case where the opportunity to drastically re-shape the team presents itself. The Avalanche should probably take it.
And just look at his hair!