Can’t get enough NHL rumors? Lyle Richardson’s Rumor Roundup column serves as a one-stop guide to the latest rumblings around the league.
Nylander Contract Impasse Fueling Trade Chatter
William Nylander’s contract standoff with the Toronto Maple Leafs continues to dominate hockey headlines throughout the league. With November approaching and the Leafs facing a Dec. 1 deadline to get the 22-year-old forward under contract, there’s growing speculation over whether they might consider trading the youngster.
Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas maintains he’s not shopping Nylander, but recently admitted several rival clubs have inquired about the youngster. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston noted Dubas recently visited several NHL cities where the Leafs were not playing.
Colleagues Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos believe the Leafs must seriously consider moving Nylander if this stalemate drags on. Kypreos said he’s heard 12 to 15 clubs have interest, with the Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings, perhaps, among the potential suitors.
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Appearing on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central at Noon last Monday, Johnston also suggested Hurricanes GM Don Waddell could be calling Dubas. He pointed out the Hurricanes have a number of defensemen that could interest the Leafs. Johnston and the show’s hosts also considered interest from the New York Rangers, Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun noted Waddell’s interest in Nylander, adding that Dubas was spotted at Friday’s game between the Hurricanes and San Jose Sharks. The Hurricanes possess four right-shot defensemen, including Justin Faulk and Brett Pesce, that could interest the Leafs.
It’s unsurprising so many teams would inquire about Nylander. A skilled, versatile two-way forward who can play center or wing, he’s coming off back-to-back 60-point campaigns. With just three NHL seasons under his belt, Nylander has yet to reach his full potential.
Because of their blueline depth and the Leafs need for a right-side rearguard, the Hurricanes have been linked to Nylander for some time. Entering this season, it was assumed Waddell might peddle one of his defensemen for a scoring forward.
However, the Hurricanes are off to a better-than-expected start thanks in part to their top line of Sebastian Aho, Micheal Ferland and Teuvo Teravainen. Waddell might want to boost his secondary scoring and could have interest in the young Leafs forward, yet be reluctant to break up his strong blueline corps. If his club continues to improve, perhaps he’ll also look at more affordable offensive options.
The rebuilding Rangers could use Nylander, but they don’t have much to offer in terms of quality defensemen. The Leafs could ask for Brady Skjei, but the Rangers probably won’t part with him, especially after establishing him as a core piece moving forward and signing him to a long-term contract extension. The Predators are considered a Stanley Cup contender and have no intention of trading any of their top-four defensemen. As for the Oilers, Darnell Nurse would interest the Leafs but, he’s not likely going anywhere.
Nylander would bring a much-needed jolt of speed and youth to a veteran Kings roster struggling in today’s younger, faster game. Garrioch reports Kings defenders Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin have recently surfaced in the rumor mill. However, both are in the 30s and unlikely to tempt the Leafs.
Rangers Could Make More Moves
Before last season’s NHL trade deadline, the New York Rangers began a roster rebuild by shipping out veterans Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner. Now, GM Jeff Gorton is expected to swing more deals to bring in younger talent.
Center Kevin Hayes is considered a prime trade candidate. The 6’5”, 216-pounder reached the 40-point plateau three times in his previous four NHL seasons. Awarded a one-year, $5.175-million contract via arbitration last summer, Hayes is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks believes it could cost the Rangers between $5.7 million and $6.2 million to get Hayes under a long-term deal.
If Gorton feels his rebuild could stretch beyond three years, Brooks speculated the Rangers could part ways with Hayes. Given their organizational depth at center, he thinks Hayes could be traded if the Blueshirts get back a top-six winger or top-four defenseman.
Kypreos reports Hayes is garnering interest around the league. He proposed the big center, who plays on both specialty teams, could be a good fit with the Winnipeg Jets as a potential replacement for Paul Stastny, who signed with the Vegas Golden Knights in the summer. Unlike Brooks, Kypreos doesn’t think the Rangers will set a high asking price, suggesting a draft pick or top prospect might get the deal done.
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Hayes isn’t the only Rangers forward popping up in trade rumors of late. Friedman said there’s also some interest in forward Vladislav Namestnikov, whose playing time is being reduced under new head coach David Quinn.
The Rangers acquired Namestnikov, 25, as part of the return from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the trade for McDonagh and Miller. A solid two-way forward who can play center or wing, he reached a career-high 48 points between the Rangers and Lightning last season, but largely struggled – and continues to – since the trade.
Unlike Hayes, Namestnikov is signed through 2019-20 with an annual salary cap hit of $4 million. That could make him attractive to rival clubs, especially if the Rangers were willing to pick up part of his salary.
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