Much like the Colorado Avalanche, the Toronto Maple Leafs season came to an end earlier than they expect. But unlike the Avalanche, the Maple Leafs have not won it all, and haven’t even gotten close to winning it all. Patience has run out.
So naturally, changes are expected.
Both Auston Matthews and William Nylander are one year away from becoming unrestricted free agents, and will no doubt cost a ton of money for the Maple Leafs to retain. Given the struggles for the team to make it very far in the playoffs, and their cap situation, moving one of the core pieces in a trade is likely on the table.
Nylander, who has been a bit of a whipping boy for Leafs fans over the years, might be the easiest to move, just because he makes the least amount of money by far.
“If you make William Nylander available,” Marek said. “I know a lot of Nylander haters won’t like to hear this – there will be a huge market for William Nylander. Are you telling me that a team like, I’ll tell you Elliotte, the one that keeps popping out to me when I think about if the Maple Leafs want to go to market with Nylander, is Colorado. You’re telling me the Colorado Avalanche, where Gabriel Landeskog is not playing next season, and we have a whole bunch of questions about the future of Valeri Nichushkin, you’re telling me that couldn’t be a home for someone like Nylander? And with their structure, and with their leadership group and with where they’re at on their winning cycle, that’s not a fit?”
Nylander is coming off the best season of his career, where he notched 40 goals and totaled 87 points. While the Maple Leafs have struggled in the playoffs, Nylander is one player who has at least held up his end on the scoring side. He’s averaged a point-per-game over the last four playoff runs, despite being the whipping boy for fans and media. Although he has played some center, he’s a winger, but a very good one at that, and one that would certainly make the offense better. He also fits in with how the Avalanche like to play, so it makes sense why Colorado would be a team people may link to him.
With Landeskog out, and the mystery around Nichushkin, there’s still a need for talent at wing. The issue with Nylander is that he only has one year left on his deal. Could the Avalanche even afford to extend him, or is this a one-year “let’s go for it” move? We’re already looking at Devon Toews‘ extension and wondering how the team might fit that in. It would be the same with Nylander.
Trade cost is another thing. One could safely assume, given Nylander’s cap hit, that one of the three big non-Makar defensemen might have to go the other way to make it work. Is that something people would be interested in? There’s risk with moving any of those three defensemen, but you can’t make a trade like this without giving up something of value.
We’ll monitor the situation, as usual, and Chris MacFarland will likely be a busy man this summer taking and making calls.