Maple Leafs Must Consider a William Nylander Trade This Summer

The Toronto Maple Leafs simply have to be thinking about trading William Nylander. Really, what other choices are there?

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Nylander is an interesting case for the Maple Leafs. Any Toronto fan who’s watched his tenure with the team has to believe that he’s sometimes in the palace and sometimes in the dog house. 

Related: Maple Leafs Radical Trade Rumors: Nylander, Ekblad, Nurse & Subban

Nylander is extremely talented but sometimes doesn’t seem to play defense at all. Then sometimes, he’s hitting and going to the dirty places to score goals. He appears to have a different level that he sometimes just doesn’t use. That said, he has some really devoted fans on the team. Although I think he’d frustrate me if I were the coach, I’m one of those fans.

With Nylander, Are the Stars Aligning in the Wrong Direction?

In short, Nylander is up and down. About once a season it seems, head coach Sheldon Keefe finds a legitimate reason to sit him for a third period for something he did or (usually) didn’t do. Still, last season he averaged just under a point a game, and he scored a career-high 34 goals. He’s a keeper, except that the stars are aligning in ways that might force his departure.

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Currently, Nylander has two years remaining on what was a highly-contested salary negotiation but has since turned into a team-friendly deal at just under $7 million per season. With the Maple Leafs having huge issues to take care of – not the least of which is to sign a starting goalie, it might be that Nylander’s on the move. 

Related: 2016 NHL Entry Draft Top 10: Where Are They Now?

There’s never been a time when Nylander’s value has been higher. He’d for sure be an attractive player for an NHL team that’s starving for offensive production. Even with his aforementioned inconsistencies, someone will want him. In fact, he could become a franchise player on a number of teams. I can even see him wanting to be THE star someplace.

The 2022-23 Maple Leafs’ Team Was Strong, Despite Losing in the Playoffs

Apparently, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas has stated that Nylander won’t be moved on his watch. However, unless I’m overlooking something completely, there’s no way Dubas isn’t thinking about moving him. 

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I think I’m a much bigger advocate of this season’s team than most fans. I also have to think that the Maple Leafs’ 2022 playoffs must be considered in context. The team almost beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Lightning beat everyone else – so far – and will be playing the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final. I can’t even imagine a Maple Leafs’ fan who thinks the Lightning’s success doesn’t matter.

The bottom line is that I would support Dubas’ decision to keep the team almost exactly as it was. That includes keeping the Core Four together for one more go and seeing if more magic can be done around the edges like he did last season with players like Michael Bunting, David Kampf, and Ondrej Kase

Related: 10 Ways Ken Holland Can Improve the Edmonton Oilers

Still, the looming problem is that the team needs a goalie. With Jack Campbell’s status as an unrestricted free agent, that’s likely going to cost them salary-cap funds. Where will those funds come from? 

In a Perfect World, I’d Keep Nylander and the Team Exactly Like It’s Been

In a perfect world, I’d want the team to have one more chance at the Stanley Cup with the exact same team makeup it’s had. I see no reason for a complete paradigm shift, and I believe Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Nylander can carry much of the offensive load. 

Auston Matthews Mitch Marner Celebrate Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander Celebrate a Goal
(Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

That said, if push comes to shove, it would seem that the logical move would be to trade Nylander for cheap young assets, salary-cap space, a player with different skills, or someone who plays a different position (read a goalie or a defenseman). Given the team’s needs, trading Nylander seems like one of the few options the team has for clearing enough salary-cap space to solve the problem the team has in goal. 

Like It or Not, What Other Choices Are There?

Like it or not, the Maple Leafs might be in a position where they have to replace Nylander with another player. Given the Maple Leafs’ ability to find solid and cheaper players during the offseason, I wouldn’t be surprised if William Nylander were no longer a part of the Maple Leafs roster when the 2022-23 NHL regular season begins in the first week of October.

Related: Maple Leafs Will Trade William Nylander This Offseason

I hate the thought, but I see little choice. I hope I’m wrong.