The clock is ticking on the Toronto Maple Leafs and their young center, William Nylander.
A restricted free agent, the 22-year-old has been holding out all season as he searches for a new contract. Nylander and his representation have not budged from a salary that will pay $8 million per year, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
With a roster with stars like John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, the Maple Leafs simply can’t afford to spend that kind of money on Nylander.
If the two sides are unable to work out a deal by Dec. 1, Nylander becomes ineligible for the remainder of the 2018-19 season and becomes an unrestricted free agent on Jul. 1, 2019.
That Dec. 1 deadline is almost two weeks away and no updates should be worrying Kyle Dubas to the point where a trade is the only option for Nylander moving forward.
The asking price is going to be a steep one, too, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. Nylander’s ceiling is still unknown after two full NHL seasons. He’s averaged 21 goals and 40 assists per year during that span and is only expected to get better.
“The ask is going to be significant,” Dreger said. “It is likely going to include two pieces off the roster, and my sources indicate it could be a top-four defenseman along with a top-nine forward.
“Because the Toronto Maple Leafs believe they can contend for the Stanely Cup, they’d have to add some key pieces and that forward would be very crucial, along with a defenseman. So it’s not an easy ask.”
Among the teams with the capability to pull off such a deal is the New York Islanders, who could use some bolstering down the middle.
Mathew Barzal has had trouble scoring goals in his second year after his Calder Trophy-winning campaign while Brock Nelson, set to prove he deserves a new conract, leads the team with eight goals in 17 games.
Below them, the third and fourth lines lack a consistent offensive punch. Valtteri Filppula has five goals this year but hasn’t scored more than 12 since the 2014-15 season while Cal Clutterbuck scored his first goal since Jan. 13 during Tuesday night’s win over the Vancouver Canucks.
New York could offer Jordan Eberle, whose contract expires at the end of this season but can be a 25-goal threat on the right wing, along with defenseman Nick Leddy for Nylander.
Eberle’s departure could open up the door for either Josh Ho-Sang or Michael Dal Colle — both of whom are ripping it up in the minors — to get a full-time call-up to the NHL. The same goes for Devon Toews if Leddy goes.
Adding Nylander, who could also play either wing, would suddenly create a much deeper Islanders offense down the middle and would bring an added scoring punch for a team that ranks 15th in the league in goals scored.