The William Nylander contract saga is one of the oddest storylines of the 2018-2019 NHL season. Holdouts aren’t too common in hockey, and more commonly occur in pro-sports leagues like the NFL. The last notable holdout in the NHL was a young Jonathan Drouin back during his days with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nylander’s situation is more bizarre because of his NHL tenure, during which he quickly became an established forward, and is projected to be an absolute star. He was a key member of the young Toronto Maple Leafs core, and one of their big three forwards—in addition to Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews.
Now he is on the chopping block. You have to admire him for not playing the old game of “screw the young talented player,” a practice that NHL general managers love utilizing to their advantage. Unfortunately for Nylander, it’s appears increasingly likely his time as a Maple Leaf may have come to an end.
Thx to @CapFriendly for running the (somewhat funky) numbers on what William Nylander’s cap hit(s) would look like on a couple of hypothetical deals if he signed today vs. at end of month. pic.twitter.com/2gBcCnEX6Z
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) November 13, 2018
The Devils need secondary scoring like the fish needs water. Adding a player of William Nylander’s caliber would go a long way into making New Jersey a legitimate playoff contender. He would round out their top-six, and be a fixture in New Jersey for years to come. As unlikely as this scenario may ultimately be, there really aren’t many downsides to kicking the tires on a potential William Nylander trade.
I suppose one detrimental aspect (aside from what his next contract will look like) is what New Jersey would have to give up in this deal. The Maple Leafs are reportedly demanding a return along the lines a top-four defenseman and a top-nine forward. As we all know, the Devils aren’t one of the deepest teams in the league ,but actually might have the tools to get this sort of deal done.
ROCKET by Damon Severson.
— Devils Insiders (@DevilsInsiders) September 28, 2018
Damon Severson would probably be the main piece going back to Toronto. His strong start to the season has only added to his value, and Severson is exactly the type of defenseman who would fit right in with the high-flying Toronto offense. His potential for growth also makes him tantalizing for a young team wanting to establish themselves as a perennial cup contender in the long-term.
One of the problems is finding a top-nine forward who the Leafs would want. Winger Marcus Johansson appears to have overstayed his welcome in New Jersey. Between his concussion-filled 2017-2018 season and this year’s slow start, it is hard to imagine many teams see the same value in him that Ray Shero saw when he traded for Johansson two summers ago.
Miles Wood has some spectacular skills, but is nowhere near consistent enough to be one of the core pieces in a trade for someone like William Nylander.
Travis Zajac is far too old (despite his spectacular play thus far) and also doesn’t fill a need for Toronto’s roster. Not only do the Leafs have plenty of top-end centers, but I’d imagine Zajac’s contract won’t appeal to Kyle Dubas.
As much as it pains me to say it, second-year forward Jesper Bratt would make the most sense. He has the skill to keep up with Toronto’s top players, and is in the midst of an entry-level contract. Despite his preseason injury, Bratt has performed extremely well in the few games he has played. He would be the perfect addition for a Leafs team that thrives on skill and speed.
In this scenario, a package revolving around Damon Severson and Jesper Bratt (with some draft picks and other pieces sprinkled in on both sides) would probably head to Toronto in exchange for the services of William Nylander. As much as it would pain many Devils fans to see these two favorites leave, the NHL is a business, and any major gain like this inevitably comes at a costly expense. In the end, New Jersey would still most likely win this trade because players like Nylander becoming available happens very far and between.