Larry Brooks of the New York Post recently dropped a bomb when he asked the controversial question: could Mike Babcock's coaching style see the Toronto Maple Leafs part ways with one their higher-skill players to acquire a much-needed defenseman?
He was talking about the rumoured trade of William Nylander for Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers, as the Leafs never hid the fact they were seeking a quality defender as the trade deadline approaches.
"There is no arguing against Babcock’s résumé that features a Stanley Cup victory, a pair of Olympic gold medals and a World Cup title — though his tenure in Detroit ended with just a single playoff round victory his final four seasons — but the Maple Leafs, though decent enough this season, have turned into just another team," writes Brooks.
"Which would appear to make it more conceivable that a party such as the Rangers might be able to pry Nylander away as part of a blockbuster that would send a defenseman as stout as Ryan McDonagh the other way."
Nylander, who is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, has nine goals and 33 points in 49 games this season, and could come and help the Rangers, who have lost Chris Kreider to injury and are looking to build a stronger future.
TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie had also revealed last week that the Rangers would at least be willing to listen to offers involving McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello, who each have one season remaining on their current contract.
However on Tuesday on the air of TSN Radio 1050 Toronto, he rebutted the rumor about the potential deal of the deadline:
"No. No chance. I don't think the Leafs will give up Nylander for a veteran defenseman like that," McKenzie said. "I'd be really, really surprised to be honest, that's just my opinon, not based on any inside information. I don't see that at all.
"I also do see where the Rangers are going to entertain offers on Ryan McDonagh, he's got a year left on his contract, he'll be 29 to start next season... but I don't see the Leafs giving up one of their young pillars up front - and I do see Matthews, Marner and Nylander as the three pillars up front - not for that type of defenseman."
Through 44 games this season with the Rangers, McDonagh has amassed 22 assists, and registered a plus +11 rating. But McKenzie, who is quite often right about these things, does not see it happening.
So what else do the Leafs have in store to land a quality blue liner?