Toronto Maple Leafs: Is Matt Duchene A Trade Option?


The star center from the Colorado Avalanche will attract a lot of interested suitors, which means a deal involving him will require a big offer. Should the Toronto Maple Leafs inquire?

It is rare to see a player like Matt Duchene involved in trade rumours. But it’s no secret that the Colorado Avalanche are struggling defensively and have a strong group of forwards that they can use to improve their blue line through a trade.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs want a player that can have an immediate impact, and still have value down the road, then Duchene should be on their radar as a trade option.

The Avalanche are no strangers when it comes to trading a young proven forward. They traded Ryan O’Reilly to the Buffalo Sabres for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and a second-round pick, which they eventually traded to San Jose.

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So far Zadorov has struggled this season to the point where he was sent down to the minors. At the age of 20 the goal is not to rush Zadorov, but they really need him to be a good player moving forward.

When it comes to Duchene the Avalanche know that he is one of their best forwards. With 329 points in 435 games, including a career high 70 points in 71 games in 2013-14, Duchene is a proven offensive threat.

The team, however, realizes that things need to change as they sit 11th in the Western Conference. Over the past few seasons the Avalanche have brought in defencemen like Erik Johnson, Francois Beauchemin, Nick Holden, Brad Stuart and Zadorov in hopes of complimenting Tyson Barrie, who is their best defenceman. Although Barrie is a productive offensive defenceman, the Avalanche need defencemen that can help improve their possession numbers and defend their own zone.

That is probably what they hope Duchene can get through a trade, since they have players like Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Jarome Iginla, Mikhail Grigorenko, and Carl Soderberg who can fill the offensive void.

Oct 26, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) celebrates his goal against the Arizona Coyotes at Air Canada Centre. The Coyotes beat the Maple Leafs 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing to remember is that the Avalanche are probably not actively shopping Duchene because they would be dealing from a position of weakness. Like the Calgary Flames, teams will try to take advantage of the Avalanche’s desire to make a move so they will try to avoid overpaying for Duchene.

The Leafs are a rebuilding team and have prospects and draft picks that are valuable assets. The team traded two first-round picks for Phil Kessel, and good prospects for quick fixes.

The Avalanche realize that Duchene is a top talent so it would be fair to expect a trade where they will try to maximize his return.

What the Leafs need to avoid doing is overpaying from a position of weakness. Duchene would be better than any forward on the Leafs, but if the Avalanche ask for Morgan Rielly in a trade the Leafs should hang up the phone.

Oct 17, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) congratulates defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) after Gardiner scored a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs see Rielly as their franchise defenceman, players like him are hard to come by because team’s are not willing to trade those players. If the Leafs make a comparable deal to what the Sabres made for O’Reilly, then the Leafs would have to give up two roster players, a prospect, and a pick.

The Leafs own the Pittsburgh Penguins first-round pick in the 2016 draft, and have potential prospects or players on the team that may make a deal work.

Would the Leafs have to part with a player like Jake Gardiner who has played with more confidence this season. Nazem Kadri has earned a lot of praise from Mike Babcock, who sees Kadri as the Leafs best forward.

Many wonder if the Leafs are still looking to trade Dion Phaneuf, even though Babcock and Lou Lamoriello are big fans of his play with the team. Tyler Bozak is playing a steady game under Babcock as a second line center. Could he have value?

Then there are the prospects on the Toronto Marlies and at the junior level that could be attractive to many teams.

Would the Avalanche consider any of these players in a trade for Duchene?

It is possible, but it is not clear what they hope to get out of Duchene. Babcock had Duchene on the 2014 Team Canada roster so he has an idea of what Duchene is capable of. At the age of 24 he can be a key player to any team for many years to come.

Over his past five games Duchene has nine points so at least his trade value is high right now and because of that teams will wait and see whether the Avalanche improve or get worse moving forward.

Right now the Leafs are enjoying a resurgence from James Reimer but they still see themselves as a work in progress. The possibility of adding a player like Duchene won’t hurt that progress moving forward, but the Leafs could fall victim to a bidding war with other teams. However, if they are going to go after a talented young forward, it should be Matt Duchene.

Should the Toronto Maple Leafs pursue a trade for Duchene even if it meant giving up a good young player or first-round draft pick? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.