The Toronto Maple Leafs have already proven they're interested in making some changes this offseason by showing GM Kyle Dubas the door and replacing him with Brad Treviling, but the team's roster may be in for a retool as well.
There are number of ways to go about that, but if Treliving wants a new-look version of the Maple Leafs, it probably means one of the team's top forwards is on the way out. The executive's introductory press conference didn't promise big changes, but trading a Core Four forward is a path he'll have to contemplate.
It only makes sense to deal Matthews if he's unwilling to sign a contract extension and Tavares has a no-movement clause. That means the wingers, Marner and Nylander, are the most interesting trade chips the team has at its disposal.
Marner has a no-movement clause that kicks in on July 1, but until then the Maple Leafs could explore moving him. Nylander has a 10-team modified no-trade clause kicking in on the same day, which means if Toronto wants to make the best possible deal the clock is ticking.
Neither player is guaranteed to go by any stretch of the imagination, but Nylander would be the easiest to move if the team decides to shake things up, or as NHL insider Chris Johnston speculated on Thursday, can't come to terms on a contract that fits into Toronto's salary cap picture.
If the Maple Leafs decide Nylander's days in Toronto are numbered, here's what trading the skilled winger could look like:
What kind of trade asset is Nylander?
Coming off a 40-goal season and making $6.9 million against the cap, Nylander is awfully appealing for any team that needs offence. The issue with the star Swede is that he only comes with one year of team control.
That means if you're making a move for Nylander you have to have some level of confidence that you can extend him. Giving up a significant package for the winger to serve as a one-year rental doesn't make much sense.
We've seen examples of players in need of hefty contracts fetching significant trade returns, but those guys aren't always the easiest to deal. Teams that feel like their market or competitive situation make them unlikely to retain Nylander will be out from the jump, and the Maple Leafs would benefit from the highest number of bidders possible.
None of that is to suggest they can't get something significant for Nylander, but his lack of team control complicates matters.
Is there an easy 1-for-1 deal that makes sense?
Not really. In a salary cap world, simple deals like that are hard to make.
Nylander is already a steal at his cap hit, and guys who present an even better value proposition aren't going to be available.
Looking at players in around the winger in the $6 million to $8 million range, no one jumps off the page who would be available and makes the Leafs better. At the high end of those guys are stars like Quinn Hughes, Jason Robertson, Nico Hischier, Elias Petterson and Rasmus Dahlin, who aren't budging. At the low end you'll find players Brock Boeser and Ryan Ellis.
One player that would make sense for the Maple Leafs is Clayton Keller ($7.15M), who may be looking for a way out of Arizona. It's hard to see the appeal of Nylander for the Coyotes, though, as he'd be unlikely to want an extension with the chaotic club unless he was paid an ungodly sum.
What kind of teams might be interested?
To want Nylander a team needs to be interested in an offensive upgrade — and committing to the 27-year-old long term.
That means a desire for fire power in the short term and an abundance of cap space beyond 2023-24. He would be a perfect fit for a team that's up against the cap next season with a significant number of contracts coming off the books.
Perhaps the perfect example of a team like that is the Calgary Flames, who are packed with impending free agents. That said, in the wake of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk wanting out of Calgary, it's hard to count on the Flames' ability to get him extended, even if its technically Nylander's hometown team.
Let's make some fake deals
Money in: $5.84 million
Money out: $8.36 million
Why it works: In this deal both team get to rejig their rosters to adjust their 2023-24 composition while gaining long-term assets. The Maple Leafs get stronger on defence in the short term with Pesce solidifying their right side while Carolina gets the juice Nylander provides.
Both clubs get younger pieces with some team control, too. The Maple Leafs pick up a speedy winger in Jarvis who is ready for a top-six role immediately, and a centre who might benefit from a change of scenery in Drury. The addition on Liljegren ensures that Carolina doesn't open up a gaping hole on its defence.
In 2023-24, the Hurricanes take on more money, but they currently projected to have over $24 million in cap room. Carolina would have to believe it could retain its new star to make this trade work, but with just $25.9 million on the books for 2024-25, it should be able to meet Nylander's demands.
Possible hangups: Although concerns about Nylander's effort level are sometimes overstated it's possible that Rob Brind'Amour and the Hurricanes simply don't see him as their kind of player.
The Maple Leafs are making a significant offensive downgrade in this deal even if they believe in Jarvis's long-term potential. Considering Pesce is an impeding UFA and both Jarvis and Drury are RFAs after 2022-23, they aren't receiving as many years of team control as they might like in a deal centred around younger players.
Money in: $6.82 million
Money out: $6.96 million
Why it works: This is the simplest proposal of the three. Toronto makes a downgrade from Nylander to Arvidsson in order to pick up some young forwards who can fill out their bottom-six, plus a pick to help replenish the team's stash.
It's not particularly sexy, but Arvidsson is already being mentioned in trade rumours and he's an impeding UFA who can fill a similar role to Nylander, albeit not as well offensively.
Lizotte is a capable fourth-line centre who kills penalties, puts up solid possession numbers and has won at least half of his draws in each of his four NHL seasons. He's no star, but he's a handy player with a reasonable cap hit ($1.67 million).
Kaliyev is more of a high-variance player. The 21-year-old is a big body at 6-2, 210 pounds, and he's scored 28 goals over the past two seasons with minimal ice time. The Uzbekistani-born winger was a healthy scratch for the Kings at times last season, but he has offensive potential and could blossom in Toronto as his game matures.
The Kings deal from a position of strength by moving out some depth forwards in return for a significant boost to their top six in an attempt to capitalize on their window of contention with Anze Kopitar (35) and Drew Doughty (33) entering the twilights of their careers. Nylander's 87 points (and 59 at even strength) would have led the Kings last season. Los Angeles projects to have $39.6 million in cap room in 2024-25, making the team a good candidate to extend Nylander.
The glamorous market and franchise's history of playoff success doesn't hurt, either.
Possible hangups: Los Angeles is likely to be enticed by the chance to turn Arvidsson into a more dynamic player. The Kings have the cap space to find a player like Lizotte, which would make Kaliyev the most likely sticking point. If they see massive potential in him that could make them antsy.
On the other end of the team, the Maple Leafs need to believe in Kaliyev's talent to be enticed by this. Arvidsson is a good player but he's not a star, and players like Lizotte are findable in free agency. The picks are nice, but Kaliyev would have the best chance to make a long-term impact in Toronto.
Money in: $5.39 million
Money out: $5.96 million
Why it works: In exchange for Nylander, the Maple Leafs get a pair of players in Mercer and Siegenthaler who could make an impact with the team for years to come. Mercer earned his top-six bonafides in 2022-23 with a 27-goal season and Siegenthaler is a solid defender with a $3.4M AAV through 2027-28.
Mercer, the 18th overall pick in 2020, will need a new contract after 2023-24, but he's cheap in the immediate term and won't cost nearly as much as Nylander on his next contract. He also has the versatility to play some centre and contribute on both special teams.
Lazar could theoretically contribute to Toronto's bottom-six, but he's in this deal to give New Jersey $1 million in cap relief through 2024-25.
The Devils have two elite centres in Hischier and Jack Hughes, and they could use elite wingers on their flanks. New Jersey also has buckets of cap room with a projected $26.4 million in 2023-24 after locking up Jesper Bratt this week, and $36 million in 2024-25.
Some of that money will get eaten up by Timo Meier, who appears on the verge of signing a long-term extension, but there should be plenty to go around. New Jersey is a squad with a bright future that should be able to entice Nylander to remain.
In order to get a little more long-term value the Devils also grab Niemela, a right-handed blueliner who The Athletic ranked as Toronto's No. 4 prospect this season.
Possible hangups: New Jersey may feel that bringing in Meier was the big move they wanted to make up front and a blockbuster for a goaltender is a higher priority. Trading a 21-year-old who's shown as much as Mercer at the NHL level is always tough, and Siegenthaler is on a nifty contract.
It is noteworthy that his ice time dropped by nearly two minutes in the second half of the season and he was a surprising healthy scratch in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs. New Jersey may be souring on him slightly with Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec on the way.
For Toronto, adding Lazar is a pain, as is retaining some salary. If Niemela hits that will sting as he could become a better player than Siegenthaler. Mercer's surge in goal scoring in 2022-23 was driven by a 16.8% shooting percentage and his offensive ceiling is still a bit tough to project.