February 14 2017 09:57AM
Being a key cog in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization has it's perks and it's downsides.
The glamour of playing in Canada's hockey hotbed is enticing and exciting, but the fan pressure and media coverage can find ways to stir things up in the 6. In his first full NHL season, 20 year-old William Nylander is getting a taste of the rumour mill and it's rather surprising. Despite producing 36 points in 53 games (ranking him fourth in rookie scoring) Nylander finds himself involved in the centre of trade whispers that are being amplified via social media.
As I published this, Nylander for Montour was brought up on Leafs Lunch for the second consecutive day, this time by Dreger: pic.twitter.com/CseoOGzFb6— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) February 9, 2017
In a recent segment on TSN 1050 Radio, TSN Insider Darren Dreger name-dropped Nylander as the likely asking price from the Anaheim Ducks in a potential trade for Brendan Montour or Shea Theordore. No disrespect to Montour or Theodore, who are valued defence prospects in their own right, but they don't contain the same value that a William Nylander does. But as we saw in this summer's Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson swap, the market for a top-four defenceman is a pricey one.
It'd be easy to disregard the Nylander rumour if it didn't at least hold some ground. The widely-regarded concept is to flip Nylander for a top-four defenceman and boost a young and growing back end in the process. While the Leafs could use a number one defenceman, a Nylander type deal wouldn't be the smart way to acquire one, let alone acquire one itself.
Let's not forget the value and skill that William Nylander possesses. Not so long ago, Nylander, not Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner, was the face of Leafs new regime. Landing transcendent talents like Marner and Matthews puts Nylander out of the spotlight, in some respects. In virtue of that, the idea of a trade seems to be an easier pill to swallow for Leafs fans. Regardless of the abilities of Marner and Matthews, it shouldn't undermine what Nylander can bring to the table.
There's no limit to the number of dynamic forwards you can have, right? Trading a talent like Nylander to fill a void isn't the answer. With the Leafs rebuild accelerating at a pace not many expected, Toronto is shaping into a desirable free agent destination. Toronto has morphed into a promising destination for free agents and will surely gauge the interest of players that originate from the Greater Toronto Area. Selling high-end free agent defenceman to suit up for the Maple Leafs won't be a tough sell, but rather, an opportunity for the Leafs to cash in on the big fish in free agency.
If the Leafs want to test the trade market for a defenceman, they have an abundance of assets they could package together. One of Brendan Leipsic or Kasperi Kapanen along with a draft pick could land the Leafs a valued defenceman and only provide a dent to the Leafs long-term plans.
There are many ways the Leafs can beef up their blue-line, but trading William Nylander would hurt the Leafs more than help. We are yet to see Nylander come close to his full potential and the idea of trading him isn't just premature; it's unnecessary.
Mike Babcock says William Nylander will remain a winger the rest of the season. His eventual transition to centre will come later on.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 13, 2017
While the Leafs unexpected playoff push has amplified excitement around the club, patience must still be preached. While acquiring another defenceman is enticing, it's not big enough of a priority to flip a talented youngster like Nylander.
If the Leafs want to find a true number one defenceman, their best odds are to strike gold in the draft or pry someone from free agency. The trade market for defenceman is an ugly place and trading Nylander for a second pairing defenceman is a step backward for the Leafs.