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Clayton Keller Talks Trade Rumor Tying Him to Maple Leafs for Nylander

Clayton Keller was asked if there was any truth to rumors linking him in a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs for William Nylander.

Recently, the NHL rumor mill buzzed with an intriguing trade scenario involving Clayton Keller, the Arizona Coyotes’ talented forward, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. These types of rumors are typically taken with a grain of salt, but this one gained enough traction to prompt an interview with Keller himself.

In May of 2023, hockey insider Elliotte Friedman reported during an episode of “32 Thoughts: The Podcast” that Keller’s agents had met with the Arizona Coyotes to discuss where the franchise was going. With poor attendance, a terrible venue situation, and no outlook on a new arena, it was being said that Keller might be ready to ask for a trade. The reports were that he was coming to terms with the fact the team was never going to be competitive during his prime years and if things weren’t close to changing, he needed to be somewhere he had a chance to win.

It wasn’t clear if a formal trade request had been made at that meeting, but there were certainly questions about what Keller had said and his expectations.

Clayton Keller William Nylander trade rumors Maple Leafs
Clayton Keller William Nylander trade rumors Maple Leafs

Around the same period, trade rumors were circulating (and still are) around William Nylander. His contract extension negotiations haven’t gone well over the past few months and with a change in management and a tight cap situation, it wasn’t clear if the Leafs were going to be sticking with every member of their “core four”. Naturally, the two names became linked to one another and the buzz grew to the point where Keller was asked about it during a recent interview.

During an on-ice conversation with PHNX Sports, the host inquired, “Have you demanded a trade? Is the Nylander for Keller rumor true? Can we finally put that to rest?” To which Keller responded (and laughed), “Yeah, no, that’s not true. I’m just focused on myself and the team here, and I just love this group of guys. This is where I want to be right now.”

Does That Mean Conversations Never Occurred?

I supposed it’s fair to wonder if the Coyotes and Maple Leafs actually ever had a conversation involving a trade that would involve these two star forwards. After all, on the surface, a swap would have made some sense. Keller’s contract, with a $7.15 million annual salary over the next five seasons, potentially offered cost savings for the Maple Leafs compared to the anticipated $8.5 to $9 million per year required to retain Nylander. Keller is also two years younger and coming off an impressive season where he amassed 86 points. Meanwhile, Nylander is a dynamic offensive player and if the Coyotes felt pressure to move Keller, they could certainly do worse than Nylander.

Remember, this was all just one season removed from a massive blockbuster that saw Matthew Tkachuk traded for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. It was rumored there was an appetite among certain GMs to be the next one to pull off a huge deal.

Ultimately, the trade never went down, as far as Keller is aware. He knows he didn’t ask to be traded and his response seems to suggest that any rumors involving him going to Toronto are kind of funny.

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