November 24, 2018 / 4:42 PM / in 24 days

Babcock 'hopeful' Nylander will sign with Maple Leafs

FILE PHOTO: Mar 28, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center William Nylander (29) moves the puck in the second period as Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) guards the net at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Friday that he expects restricted free agent forward William Nylander to sign with the team ahead of the Dec. 1 deadline for him to be allowed to play this season.

“I’m confident, hopeful,” Babcock said. “I mean Willy loves hockey. I know Willy good, he’s a great teammate and a good person, and he loves hockey. He wants to play hockey. ... So I’m betting on that.”

The comments were made before Toronto lost 4-2 at the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday night.

Nylander had said over the summer that he expected a deal would be reached before the Maple Leafs opened training camp on Sept. 13, but the sides never reached a deal.

He has until 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 1 to sign a deal or else be forced to sit out the rest of the season. Nylander reportedly has been working out in Europe in the meantime.

Nylander, 22, has 135 points in 185 games over his first three seasons. He had 61 points while playing all 82 games last season, scoring 20 goals and registering a career-high 41 assists.

Nylander added one goal and three assists during Toronto’s Stanley Cup playoff run, which ended in Game 7 of the first round against the Boston Bruins.

The Maple Leafs added John Tavares on a seven-year, $77 million contract to begin the offseason, a move that would like make Nylander a full-time winger if he were to return.

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