(Photo: Kate Frese)
It’s no secret that the stalemate between the Toronto Maple Leafs and forward William Nylander is a story that’s alive and well even after the first month of the NHL season. On the surface, the Flyers really have nothing to do with this saga...until Toronto GM Kyle Dubas paid a visit to Wells Fargo Center a few weeks ago.
Dubas was in attendance at the game between the Flyers and Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 22, certainly helping fuel rumors. In the event that things come to a head with Nylander, the Maple Leafs may explore a trade. And the Flyers could very well be a suitor.
“The interesting thing about this is they haven’t been a team that’s been mentioned a lot with Nylander, but they could do it,” Sportsnet Canada’s Elliotte Friedman said on his 31 Thoughts Podcast last week. “They have pieces that I think Toronto could like. We’ve mentioned Los Angeles, we’ve mentioned Minnesota, Carolina definitely -- they’re all over the place there -- but I really do believe that a stealth team that has what Toronto would want would be the Flyers.”
Friedman’s not wrong in his assessment here. The Flyers have the pieces to make a big move.
Can they make a play for Nylander? Of course. Will they? That’s another story.
The Flyers are in a spot where a big change could still be necessary. After another embarrassing loss on home ice on Oct. 27 against the Islanders that brought their record to 4-7-0, the Flyers took to the road and earned seven of a possible eight points on a four-game trip, including winning back-to-back games for the first time this season. A few wins in the short-term doesn’t change everything, but they buy a little more time, so chances are a major move like a trade is not imminent.
That said, it’s not often that a top prospect who posted 61 points in each of his first two seasons is dangling there for the taking, albeit for a price.
The Leafs want defensive pieces, and boy do the Flyers have them. And that’s instantly where this idea hits a snag. Toronto could easily take interest in Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere or Travis Sanheim as the centerpiece of the deal, and that might only be the beginning.
Provorov has to be close to untouchable. The 21-year-old has already emerged as a No. 1 defenseman and has started to see his game turn around in a positive way after a slow start. Gostisbehere had a 65-point season a year ago, and while the points haven’t come in bunches yet, he’s seen his defensive game improve over the years. The Flyers don’t want to lose a high-end defenseman like that. Sanheim has also seen his game become more mature and consistent in the last few games. He still has some issues and mistakes, but he’s become a much-improved player over the offseason.
With one of those three likely having to be the centerpiece of a deal, the Flyers may back away from the table before a deal even comes close to being finalized. Not to mention, Ron Hextall has exercised great patience with the Flyers build, especially when it comes to young players. He has a hesitancy to trade prospect players for the big move.
And that would only be the beginning. It would likely take more than just a top defenseman to get Nylander into the Orange and Black. Again, the Flyers have pieces, but what would they actually offer? That would be the problem in striking a deal.
For now, it makes for good discussion and a little entertainment. But for the Flyers to actually become serious in any developments surrounding Nylander, the price tag will have to come way down.