With two weeks until the regular season opener, the Toronto Maple Leafs and winger William Nylander are no closer to a new contract, but on Wednesday the league’s number of unsigned restricted free agents was lowered to four as Sam Reinhart agreed to a two-year, $7.3 Million deal with the Buffalo Sabres.
Reinhart (selected second overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, six picks ahead of Nylander), was drafted as a center but has played mostly wing in the NHL and like the Leafs forward has scored 20 or more goals twice, agreed to a bridge deal that will pay an average annual value of $3.65 Million.
Getting Nylander signed sooner rather than later would be beneficial to him and the Leafs, who play three preseason games in the next four days.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes that the Reinhart deal will not have much of an effect on the Leafs negotiations if the two sides are intent on reaching agreement on a long term deal. If the impasse lasts deep into the preseason or even in the regular season, the $3.65 Million AAV could be used as a template for a compromise bridge deal, but neither side appears interested in a shorter term contract.
LeBrun also indicated that over the summer, there was a conversation held between the Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes regarding defenseman Justin Faulk, but that the high asking price for the former All-Star blueliner may have scared GM Kyle Dubas off.
The Leafs have over $13 Million in available cap space this season (without Nylander signed) and will likely pursue reinforcements on defense prior to the February 25th deadline.
Travis Dermott played well in Toronto’s 4-1 victory over Ottawa in Lucan, ON on Tuesday, but the sophomore defenseman was not on the ice at the MasterCard Centre on Wednesday morning.
Head coach Mike Babcock indicated that Dermott was dealing with a shoulder injury and is day-to-day. The 21-year-old defenseman missed Game 7 of the Calder Cup Final with a shoulder injury, but it is unknown if his current injury is related or the same shoulder that he hurt in June.
Toronto will dress the other half of their lineup in Game 2 of their back-to-back games with the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, ON on Wednesday.
Jake Gardiner will miss the game due to the birth of his son and will be replaced by Martin Marincin on the top pairing with Nikita Zaitsev.
According to reporter Paul Hendrick, Auston Matthews will center the top line with Patrick Marleau and Tyler Ennis. Fourth line center candidates Par Lindholm and Frederik Gauthier will go head-to-head, with the Swedish import skating between Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen and the big 2013 first rounder centering Marlies linemate Pierre Engvall and newcomer Josh Jooris.
The combo of Rich Clune, Adam Brooks and Jeremy Bracco will make up the fourth line and the other defensive pairings are Calle Rosen and Connor Carrick and the Leafs last two first rounders, Ramsus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren.
Frederik Andersen and Calvin Pickard are expected to split time in goal.
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