NHL Rumor ShootDown: William Nylander Trade Needed

It’s been some time since we’ve done a rumor shootdown article but a tidbit coming out of today’s NHL rumor rundown post made it almost impossible to ignore writing something when it comes to the buzz surrounding William Nylander.

In Toronto, panic is starting to set in. The team is mightily struggling and rumors of head coach Mike Babcock being sent packing, defenseman Tyson Barrie being requested in trade and now Nylander possibly being considered in trade to shake things up exist. The last option is a bit baffling.

Where Does the Nylander Rumor Come From?

Rosie DiManno of The Toronto Star believes a lot of people are focusing their blame in the wrong direction. While she admits it’s highly possible Babcock has lost the locker room, she contends GM Kyle Dubas poorly assembled the Maple Leafs and removing the coach doesn’t solve their problems.

Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander
Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Her opinion is that the team might be better-served trading someone like William Nylander — a trade she categorizes as a slam-bang character adjustment needed to reset the season.

DiManno writes:

Something needs to be done to kick-start the Leafs before time does run out. … Who can the Leafs sacrifice, if painfully, to secure a crucial return? The arrow spins around, I’m afraid, to William Nylander or a prospect package that would include Rasmus Sandin and, seriously, you don’t want to be doing that.

source -‘It shouldn’t be the end of the road for Mike Babcock just yet — trading William Nylander might do more good’ – Rosie DiManno – Toronto Star – 11/17/2019

DiManno is right in that the Leafs certainly don’t want to trade Rasmus Sandin. They shouldn’t want to trade Nylander either, and I don’t think they will.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Forwards Season Grades: One Week Into the Season

Nylander is Actually Producing

When Nylander missed time last season because he and the Maple Leafs couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract extension, he wasn’t exactly the Nylander most had expected upon his return. This season, he’s been more the player the organization anticipated they’d see when he signed for $6.9 million per season-over-six.

Nylander Matthews Maple Leafs CP
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews and William Nylander (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Nylander certainly isn’t the type of player that adds a second or third dimension like fighting, grit, penalty-killing skill or, as Brian Burke coined, “truculence” to the team (he’s pretty much all offense) but he’s not the reason the Maple Leafs are struggling either.

Sure, trades that remove players to shake up a team do happen. But, it’s not often a trade is made where the team knowingly removes a useful piece just to spite the other players who need to improve. It’s certainly not often a team trades a contract that isn’t a drastic over-payment to do so.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Barrie, Marner Trade Scenario, Nylander

Dubas Made Him a Promise

Outside of the fact that maybe a Nylander trade gets something the Maple Leafs could sorely use in return, there’s one small catch. GM Kyle Dubas promised Nylander he wouldn’t trade him. It wasn’t added officially to the deal but the promise was made.

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

As DiManno points out, “handshake deals don’t mean anything in professional sports”, but they actually do. Dubas can trade Nylander; that’s not up for debate here. That said, the consequences of doing so will ring through the organization for a while.

Dubas is going to be responsible for having to completely reshape his blue line over the next couple of seasons and it means a lot to players that they can trust their GM. Dubas trading Nylander throws all of that right out the window.

Related: Would Adding Hall Turn Oilers Into the Maple Leafs?

The Coach and Other Factors Fall First

The real reason I don’t believe Nylander goes first to solve the problems in Toronto is because a $6.9 million forward on pace for 63 points doesn’t often get moved. The coach who can’t seem to find wins for a team that has multiple players contributing and skill throughout the lineup does.

Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock
Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

This is not the first season Babcock has been on the hot seat. Add to that, rumors of a lost locker room almost always get coaches canned. It’s a way of life in the NHL and as big a name and large a reputation as Babcock has, he’s not immune to it.

Now, if Nylander asks for a trade, that changes everything. And, who knows, maybe players in Toronto start to want out should the season keep falling apart on them.

Related: NHL Rumors: Canucks, Devils and Hall, Oilers, More