NHL Rumor Roundup: Maple Leafs, William Nylander nearing point of no return

Toronto and its young winger face a December 1 contract deadline if William Nylander is to play in the NHL this season.

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.

Leafs Considering Nylander Trade Options

The contract standoff between the Toronto Maple Leafs and restricted free agent William Nylander has reached a new critical stage. Facing a Dec. 1 deadline to get the 22-year-old winger signed lest he become ineligible for the remainder of the season, Leafs management appears willing to consider trade options.

Over the weekend, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported hearing the Leafs informed teams interested in Nylander to prepare formal offers. Friedman also said general manager Kyle Dubas declined to comment.

MORE: 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Gary Bettman -- "I hope they remember that the game got bigger, it got stronger"

Colleague Nick Kypreos believes the Leafs priority remains re-signing the young forward, adding talks still continue between the two sides. He said it's believed the club is willing to offer a deal comparable to the six-year, $40-million contract of Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak. A short-term bridge deal is also an option.

Trade speculation overshadowed this situation for weeks with the Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers and Vegas Golden Knights mentioned as potential suitors. Just because the Leafs are willing to at least entertain offers, however, doesn't make a Nylander trade a foregone conclusion.

The Leafs' asking price will be a sticking point, as they'll want at least a good young roster player (preferably a top-four defenseman) as part of the return. The Nylander camp's contract demands could also be an issue. If they persist in seeking over $7-million per season for their client, clubs could balk at that expense.

MORE: 2019 NHL Draft Top 31 -- Will Jack Hughes hold on to the No. 1 ranking?

Dubas might be using talk of a trade as leverage in negotiations with Nylander's representatives. If his preference remains staying in Toronto, perhaps the subtle threat of a trade (possibly to a non-contender) might sway the winger into accepting the Leafs' latest offer.

Change in the Pittsburgh air?

The Pittsburgh Penguins entered this season hoping to regain the form that brought them consecutive Stanley Cup titles in 2016 and 2017. However, the team is off to a rocky start. Entering this week, the Penguins had just seven wins in 15 games and sat outside the wild-card cutoff in the Eastern Conference.

General manager Jim Rutherford isn't pleased with his club's performance. Last week, he told the Pittsburgh media that roster changes could be coming if things didn't improve soon.

A lack of secondary scoring is a problem for the Penguins this season. Though he didn't mention anyone by name, Rutherford criticized some players under new contracts and some approaching free-agent status next summer.

NHL Mixed Bag: Winds of change in Chicago, possibly in Anaheim, too

Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes the Penguins GM was referring to defenseman Brian Dumoulin and forwards Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin and Riley Sheahan. Meanwhile, Jared Clinton of The Hockey News speculated Patric Hornqvist and Derick Brassard could become trade candidates.

Mackey also cited sources claiming the Penguins are listening to offers for struggling young winger Daniel Sprong. However, it's uncertain if they've received any serious proposals.

Rutherford may have made his remarks in hopes of lighting a fire under his players. Nevertheless, he's proven in the recent past a willingness to make early-season deals to improve his club. If things don't pick up soon, Rutherford may again spring into action.

Might Rangers Rethink Moving Hayes?

As the New York Rangers struggled through the opening weeks of this season, Kevin Hayes became a frequent target of trade conjecture. The 26-year-old center is on a one-year, arbitration-awarded contract worth $5.175 million, slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

With the Rangers rebuilding, the assumption is Hayes could be shopped at the trade deadline in February -- or possibly sooner -- if there is a good return of a young player or a first-round pick.

MORE: Just when he found his game, Rangers' Pavel Buchnevich breaks thumb, out 4-6 weeks

In recent weeks, however, the Rangers are playing better than expected, moving into second place in the Metropolitan Division. Hayes plays a key role in their improvement, sitting third in scoring with 11 points in 18 games.

Last week, TSN's Darren Dreger cites Hayes' performance as reason to consider it a little early for trade speculation regarding the Rangers' center. He believes we'll have a better idea of possible destinations in the New Year.

Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post observed Hayes' trade value is improving. He also wonders if management might reconsider the center's place in their long-term plans, especially if the club is improving quicker than expected and considering youngsters Brett Howden, Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil all play center, as does Mika Zibanejad who is under contract on a long-term deal.

Hayes' fate likely won't become clearer until mid-January. By that point, Rangers management should know for certain if they should become buyers or sellers. If they're in the thick of the postseason chase, they could retain Hayes for the remainder of the season, even at the risk of losing him to free agency in July.