The NHL regular season has now been underway for almost three weeks, and Toronto Maple Leafs’ right winger William Nylander is still without a contract. Nylander, 22, remains a Restricted Free Agent, and it seems that Nylander and Toronto are still not on the same page on terms of a potential new deal. It’s been reported that Nylander could be looking for upwards of $8 million per year.
Nylander is a young star for Toronto, and it’s really a shame that a player of his caliber and potential is missing out on what should be a special season in Toronto. The young Swede has put up 61 points in each of his two full seasons in the NHL, and he is also a two-time 20 goal scorer.
Due to the contract dispute, Nylander’s name has been mentioned a lot in chatter about potential trades. Teams such as the Rangers, Predators, Oilers, and yes, the Hurricanes, have been linked to Nylander.
Does a Deal for Nylander Make Sense for the Hurricanes?
Nylander was originally drafted as a center when Toronto selected him 8th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but he has played almost exclusively on the right wing so far in the NHL. If the Hurricanes were to acquire Nylander, he would likely play on the wing. Sebastian Aho has excelled as a center this year, Jordan Staal isn’t going anywhere, and eventually, Martin Necas will be back in the NHL.
On the right wing, there is more of a clear fit for Nylander than there would be as a center. Right now, the Hurricanes have Teuvo Teravainen, Justin Williams, Valentin Zykov, and Andrei Svechnikov playing on the right wing. If you were to add Nylander to that group, it would likely push Teravainen or Zykov to the left wing, and Williams to the bottom six.
William Nylander would be a great fit next to Sebastian Aho, or once he returns, Martin Necas. Adding Nylander to the already young group of forwards would be great for the team, but it could create problems in the near future.
Why a Deal Won’t Happen
The Hurricanes will need to sign Aho, Teravainen, Williams, and Micheal Ferland to new deals at the conclusion of this season. That likely won’t be cheap. Aho could earn north of $8 million per year, Teravainen could be close to $7 million per year, and Ferland is doing well in earning himself a major raise, and he might end up making over $4 million, or even more if he continues on his hot start. Williams likely won’t make as much as his current $4.5 million, but he probably won’t be cheap if he returns.
After the 2019-2020 season, Warren Foegele, Valentin Zykov, and Justin Faulk will be among the players needing new contracts. And after the 2020-2021 season, Andrei Svechnikov, Dougie Hamilton, and Scott Darling have expiring contracts. Adding a potential $7 million or more to the books in Nylander could potentially cause some major problems money wise in the next three or so years. Obviously, the Canes could find ways to get some of that money off the books, but as it looks now, things are going to start getting tight even without someone like William Nylander.
Another important factor to consider is the price of a trade. Toronto is said to be interested in a defenseman, preferably a right-handed defenseman. Two names immediately jump out, and they are Brett Pesce and Justin Faulk. Faulk had a rough 2017-2018 season, and he hasn’t been great to start this season either. Pesce has been steady since making his NHL debut with the Hurricanes, and he remains one of the most underrated defenders in the NHL. Pesce is under contract through the 2023-2024 season at a very team friendly $4.025 million per year, whereas Faulk is set to become a free agent after next season. It would make sense for Toronto to ask for Pesce in return for Nylander, but ideally, the Hurricanes hold onto Pesce and ship Faulk away instead.
I just think that the Hurricanes would be reluctant to trade away Pesce. With Faulk’s contract expiring in a year and Dougie Hamilton’s expiring in two years, trading Pesce could result in the Hurricanes being without a top right-handed defenseman within a couple of years. But, if the Hurricanes were able to include Faulk as opposed to Pesce in a deal, Toronto would likely ask for more as part of the deal, and the price could just become too expensive.
All of these factors lead me to believe that a deal between Toronto and Carolina isn’t going to happen. Personally, I would love to see William Nylander in a Hurricanes’ uniform, but I just don’t think that it’s likely to happen. If the Hurricanes can entice Toronto with a package around Faulk, then sure, but Pesce looks like the far better asset from Toronto’s point of view.
The Hurricanes currently sit atop the Metropolitan Division with 9 points in 8 games despite losing three games in a row. Toronto also sits atop their division, and they have 12 points in 9 games, and they look very good. Auston Matthews is currently leading the NHL in scoring with 16 points, and Morgan Rielly (14 points), Mitch Marner (12 points) and John Tavares (11 points) are right behind him. Carolina has the worst powerplay unit in the NHL, so Nylander could go a long way in trying to fix it. Toronto would also certainly welcome Nylander back, and that could create one of the most dangerous offenses that the NHL has seen in a long time.