Mike Babcock: ‘We think Nylander’s going to be a career Leaf’

The Maple Leafs head coach believes William Nylander will remain a Maple Leaf while Auston Matthews is hoping he won't have to answer Nylander questions much longer.

Saturday’s 5:00 p.m. ET deadline to get William Nylander signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs is very rapidly approaching and has more than a few onlookers feeling quite nervous.

Head coach Mike Babcock doesn’t appear to be among that group, however.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Babcock expressed confidence that Nylander will be in uniform with the team soon and that he’ll remain a member of the Leafs for a long time afterwards.

“We think Willy’s going to be here and we think Willy’s going to be here a long time,” said Babcock. “We think Willy’s going to be a career Leaf.”

Babcock’s comments about Nylander staying in Toronto for the rest of his career come one day after Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman opined on Tim & Sid Wednesday evening that even if the Leafs and Nylander work out a deal, this will be the Swede’s final season in the Blue and White.

“The one thing I do believe, no matter what happens, is that this will be William Nylander’s final season as a Toronto Maple Leaf,” Friedman said. “Whether he signs or whether he doesn’t sign, this is going to be it. And even if he does sign, I think Toronto trades him by the draft at the latest.

“One way or the other, I think this is over. I would be surprised if he plays for Toronto next season.”

It would appear that Babcock would disagree with this opinion.

Nylander, a restricted free agent, is coming off back-to-back 61-point seasons. It’s been reported that the Leafs and Nylander’s camp are “close” as they come down to the wire in negotiation with Nylander supposedly willing to accept something in the $6.9-million range per year.

Currently second in the Atlantic Division and just two points back of the NHL-leading Buffalo Sabres, the Leafs have played just fine thus far without Nylander, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t welcome his return. Babcock certainly seems like a guy who’d like to have the star forward back on his bench. Ditto for teammate Kasperi Kapanen.

The Leafs next play Saturday against the Minnesota Wild at 7:00 p.m. ET, a couple hours after Nylander’s signing deadline will pass.

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