Whether or not the Leafs will trade unsigned restricted free agent William Nylander remains to be seen, but a few new tidbits of information have been gleaned on that front.
The Wednesday afternoon edition of Leafs Lunch on Toronto’s TSN 1050 included a Pierre LeBrun appearance, and the Insider passed along a few relevant nuggets of information.
The discussion began just before LeBrun was brought into the fold, and centered around the latest TSN Trade Bait list.
Frank Seravalli authors them, and they’re excellent conversation pieces for hockey fans, although the rankings themselves - and players’ inclusion on the Trade Bait board - seem to lack any distinguishable criteria on which they’re based.
Nylander tops this season’s initial list, while defenseman Brett Pesce of the Carolina Hurricanes holds down the No. 8 slot.
Gord Miller, who co-hosts Leafs Lunch, asserted that, “I don’t think you’re getting Pesce from Carolina. I think two guys they won’t touch would be Slavin - Jaccob Slavin - and Brett Pesce.”
As LeBrun was introduced to the segment, the Insider was asked if anything was pointing to the belief that Pesce could be a reality as part of a Leafs-Canes trade.
“I heard what Gord said there and listen, no doubt the Hurricanes value him very much,” noted LeBrun. “But I will tell you - and it’s why I mentioned his name a couple of weeks ago as well - that if they had a chance at William Nylander, my understanding is they would consider it.”
That’s a notable piece of information, and it’s why it’s critical to pay attention to the specific language used in the Insider hits. There’s a difference between speculation - which could be simply spitballing or an educated guess, and is usually specifically framed as either - and an Insider gathering actual intel.
“But again, we’re so much ahead of ourselves here because we still don’t know if the Leafs would be willing to move William Nylander,” continued LeBrun. “And No. 2, as I mentioned on Insider Trading last night, it’s one thing for the Hurricanes to be among a long list of teams that are monitoring Nylander. Who’s to say that they can sign him?
“But listen, what we know is this: Carolina is monitoring it very closely. They’ve informed the Leafs that they want to know if and when the Leafs open up the trade possibility to teams, and that’s where it’s at. The rest is all us trying to fill in the blanks.
“Yeah, they absolutely really like Brett Pesce, but they also are very deep on defense and I believe the Hurricanes think they’re a top-six forward away from being even a better team.
“So it’s something to keep in mind.”
Pesce, 23, is in the first season of a six-year, $24.15 million contract, with a cap hit of $4.025 million.
As the dialogue on 1050 continued, Miller wondered if there were teams out there who would be willing to both give up assets to get Nylander, and then pay him more than $7 million on a contract.
Miller said he hasn’t spoken with anyone who was willing to take on both aspects.
“I talked to one GM who said he would pay him $7 million a year,” indicated LeBrun. “I don’t think that this GM would be a player if Nylander was on the trade market, but he was talking just overall NHL economics. He believes Nylander is worth that.
“But you’re right, and actually this is kind of the scary part for the Leafs as time goes on here. It’s not just philosophically, ‘Are we open to trading him or not,’ it’s, ‘If we are open to trading him,’ now you’re sharing your issue with your trade because no team is going to trade for William Nylander without securing him to a contract first. So it’s absolutely fascinating.
“Now, my understanding is Lewis Gross, the agent for Nylander, has had direct communication with teams because he’s allowed to. William Nylander is a free agent. So it’s not as if there haven’t been teams at least doing their due diligence that way.
“But again, I don’t have any proof yet that there’s a contract out there that a team believes it can get done with William Nylander. Not that I know, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not the case.”
The contract value for Nylander is naturally the pivotal issue to this entire situation, with Nylander’s camp believed to be at or near their initial ask in the $8-plus million range, so it’s interesting to hear LeBrun pass along confirmation that at least one GM wouldn’t have an issue paying Nylander $7 million a year.
Again, it’s the difference between speculation about what GMs might consider and actually learning specific knowledge gathered.
There’s also a vast, vast gulf between a $7 million contract and one at or exceeding $8 million per season.
Nylander, for now, remains an unsigned RFA.
Contract-related info via CapFriendly