William Nylander remains an unsigned restricted free agent, but Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock on Friday expressed optimism the forward will sign before the Dec. 1 deadline to play this season.
"I'm confident, hopeful," Babcock said before Toronto lost 4-2 at the Columbus Blue Jackets. "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."
Nylander, who reportedly had been working out in Europe, will not be eligible to play in the NHL this season if he does not sign before 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 1.
The 22-year-old center tied his NHL career high with 61 points (20 goals, 41 assists) with the Maple Leafs last season. He had four points (one goal, three assists) in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.
He finished third on the Maple Leafs in points last season behind Mitchell Marner (69) and Auston Matthews (63).
TSN reported Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas met with Nylander in Switzerland on Oct. 17 and that Dubas spoke to Nylander's agent in New York the following weekend, but negotiations had cooled since then.
Toronto selected Nylander, the son of former NHL forward Michael Nylander, in the first round (No. 8) of the 2014 NHL Draft. He has 135 points (48 goals, 87 assists) in 185 NHL games and eight points (two goals, six assists) in 13 playoff games.
Toronto, which is 15-8-0 without Nylander this season, is third in the Atlantic Division, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres.
The Maple Leafs host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.