Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock is optimistic that the team will sign RFA William Nylander, as the Dec. 1 deadline to get a deal done looms.
Before the Maple Leafs took to the ice for their Friday game vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets, Babcock told reporters that he's "confident" in Nylander joining the team again soon.
"I'm confident, hopeful. I mean Willy loves hockey," Babcock said, via Sportsnet's Chris Johnston. "I know Willy good -- he's a great teammate and a good person -- and he loves hockey. He wants to play hockey. So I'm betting on that. How's that?"
Nylander has yet to suit up this season as he continues a holdout over his contract situation. If the Leafs don't sign Nylander by Dec. 1, he will be ineligible to play during the season.
First-year general manager Kyle Dubas met with Nylander in Switzerland last month to discuss the contract, but that didn't amount to anything. It's been reported that Nylander is seeking a lucrative deal that will pay him around $8 million a season.
But with the Maple Leafs set to face a massive cap crunch (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marer and Kasperi Kapanen are RFAs this summer), the front office has been hesitant in giving into Nylander's demands.
Nylander has registered consecutive 61-point seasons, helping the Maple Leafs reach the postseason in 2017 and '18. He has 135 career points in 185 NHL games.
What This Means
Entering play on Friday, the Maple Leafs sit third overall in the NHL standings with a 15-7-0 record (30 points). Having Nylander rejoined a scoring machine consisting of Matthews, Marner, John Tavares and Patrick Marleau would provide an even bigger boost as they try to catch the Tampa Bay Lightning for tops in the Atlantic Division.
For both sides, a bridge deal might make the most sense. It gives Toronto short-term cap relief and allows Nylander to set himself up for a bigger contract down the road.