NHL Rumor Roundup: What will William Nylander, Maple Leafs do before deadline?

william-nylander-kyle-dubas-112718-getty-ftr.jpeg
William Nylander and Kyle Dubas (Getty Images)

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 Saga Drawing To A Close 

The contract impasse between the Toronto Maple Leafs and restricted free agent William Nylander will reach some sort of resolution by the end of this week. 

Facing a 5 pm ET deadline on Dec. 1 to re-sign the 22-year-old winger, the Leafs face three options. They can get him under contract before Saturday, trade him to another club willing to meet his salary demands, or simply leave him unsigned and revisit contract negotiations next summer. Under that last option, however, he becomes ineligible to play the remainder of this season.

With the deadline fast approaching, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Saturday a six-year agreement worth around $6.9 million per season remains possible. His colleague Elliotte Friedman feels the two sides aren’t far apart, claiming they’re “within about half-a-million dollars of each other.”  

If they’re as close as Friedman indicates, an agreement could come before that Dec. 1 deadline. Nevertheless, both sides could haggle down to the wire before a contract is finally hammered out.  

Should talks collapse as Saturday approaches, the Leafs could pull the trigger on a trade. The Toronto Star’s Mark Zwolinski noted the Carolina Hurricanes have followed the Nylander saga for a while.  

The Leafs must shore up the right side of their blueline and the Hurricanes are deep in skilled, young right-shot defensemen. Zwolinski also listed the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild and Philadelphia Flyers as potential trade destinations. 

Changes in Store for the Flyers?

Speaking of the Flyers. With Philadelphia struggling through another erratic start, the front office fired Ron Hextall on Monday as their general manager.

In over four seasons in the GM chair, Hextall freed up salary-cap space while restocking the Flyers farm system with promising young talent. Defenseman Ivan Provorov, winger Travis Konecny, center Nolan Patrick and prospect goaltender Carter Hart were Hextall draft picks. 

Unfortunately, the Flyers blew hot and cold during Hextall’s tenure. They missed the playoffs twice and struggled with inconsistency and shaky goaltending. Eventually, it wore down the patience of the Flyers faithful and, finally, Hextall’s bosses. His stubborn insistence to stick by embattled head coach Dave Hakstol was also considered a factor in his firing. 

Flyers president Paul Holmgren is leading the search for Hextall’s replacement. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports former Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher and former Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis could be among the early candidates. 

ron-francis-112718-getty-ftr.jpeg

Whoever replaces Hextall could opt to replace Hakstol with his own man as head coach. The new GM must also address their porous goaltending and sloppy defense, which ranks among the league’s worst.

Prior to Hextall’s firing, The Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi wondered if he would shake things up with a major trade or hiring a new coach. Now it’s up to the new GM who could do both, with perhaps winger Wayne Simmonds as a trade chip. 

Simmonds, 30, is a heart-and-soul two-way forward whose hardworking style endeared him to Flyers fans. He’s also slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July and hasn’t looked the same since undergoing offseason pelvic surgery. 

Prior to Hextall’s firing, The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor suggested Simmonds as a likely trade candidate. He observed the rugged winger was demoted to the third line and was no longer being used as a core player.

Despite the decline in Simmonds’ play, he could prove valuable for teams with Stanley Cup aspirations this season. As of Nov. 26, he was second on the Flyers in goals (nine) and sits fifth in points with 13. If the new management wants to stay on the youth trend, Simmonds might fetch a second-round pick and a prospect. 

Bruins Looking At Coyle?

The injury-ravaged Boston Bruins suffered another blow last week when it was revealed center Patrice Bergeron (rib injury) will be sidelined for at least four weeks. GM Don Sweeney is currently looking to his roster for a short-term replacement. However, if the Bruins falter in Bergeron’s absence, he might be forced to seek help in the trade market. 

Joe McDonald of The Athletic speculates Sweeney could revisit his offseason interest in Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle. McDonald’s colleague Michael Russo has Coyle on his list of this season’s most likely Wild trade candidates.

McDonald suggests Coyle might make a good stopgap until Bergeron’s return and then could provide useful depth elsewhere at forward. If Coyle’s unavailable, McDonald points to Tyler Bozak of the St. Louis Blues and Derek Stepan of the Arizona Coyotes as other options.

Bozak, however, signed with the Blues last summer and they might not be keen to move him. The Coyotes recently shipped forwards Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini to Chicago for Nick Schmaltz, so they’re unlikely to part with Stepan now.