Maple Leafs want John Tavares? They need to trade William Nylander

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 10: William Nylander
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 10: William Nylander /

William Nylander has been a Toronto Maple Leafs fan favorite since signing with them, but it might be time to let him go.

It not easy to hide the love for William Nylander. Toronto Maple Leafs fans literally have blogs dedicated to him and his adorable friendship with teammates Kasperi Kapanen, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

But all the fanfare aside, there are tough decisions to be made this offseason, and Nylander should be one of them.

Kyle Dubas is the newest (and youngest) general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, so he should be willing to make some big power moves. This offseason’s hottest commodity has always been center John Tavares, and Toronto is on his shortlist of teams to join. It’s also his hometown.

Really, the debate will come down to salary. Nylander is a stacked pawn for the Leafs. Getting his salary off the books would allow them to surely keep star Auston Matthews, and add someone venerated like Tavares to boot. Nylander’s a particularly talented assister and has a shot to back up the legacy of his last name. He could go for a hefty amount in a trade.

Nylander is expected to be offered a contract similar to those of David Pastrnak and Nikolaj Ehlers, which would bring him in the ballpark of a 6 year $40-$42 million contract with around a $6 million cap hit. Here’s the problem — Matthews and Marner only have one year left on their entry-level contracts. Someone like Matthews could possibly collect a sum similar to Jack Eichel (at 8 years, $80 million, $10 million cap) or Connor McDavid (8 years, $100 million, 12.5 million cap), and Tavares is likely to ask for somewhere between $11-12 million per season, so this will get pricey fast.

So why is Toronto considering keeping Nylander? Chemistry, pure and simple. He’s got a great feel of skating with Matthews and Marner in particular. Their friendship off the ice translates to their undeniable support on the ice. It’s a rare thing to see, but it isn’t rare enough to risk losing someone like Tavares.

Next: Each NHL Team's Biggest 'What if

Nylander is good, but even next to his peers he pales. He needs a team that can boost him to be a franchise player, not one that has him on a discount rack behind Matthews. It could almost be argued that his talent will be squandered with the Leafs…so it really is best for all parties if he moves onwards and upwards.

The Leafs fans need a Cup. There haven’t been any championships to celebrate since 1967. They’re practically on their knees begging for one. Tavares and Matthews together would be a formidable pair, and one likely to make a Cup campaign easy. It’s a simple decision on paper, but it will undoubtedly ruffle feathers. Honestly, it’s going to come down to Dubas and his desire to make an impression. There are no happy endings here.