Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews tries to ‘harmlessly’ recruit Drew Doughty

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 28: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates past Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 28: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates past Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Just when everything was quiet with the Drew Doughty rumours, the possibility of him being an option for the Toronto Maple Leafs was brought up again at the All-Star Game thanks to Auston Matthews.

The great part of the NHL All-Star game is that the players see it as an opportunity to let loose and enjoy some harmless fun with the best players in the league.

For some, that included a chance to do some low-key tampering that seemed innocent but got the attention of many including Toronto Maple Leafs‘ fans thanks in large part to Auston Matthews and Drew Doughty.

It all came out after Craig Custance tweeted about players that attempted to lure their fellow All-Stars the most logical name was free agent defenceman Mike Green, who will be a big name to watch at the trade deadline.

The story took another turn when Steven Stamkos was trying to use the All-Star festivities as a way to sell players on coming to join the Tampa Bay Lighting as BarDown reports.

The Lightning captain took some of the heat off of him when he said that he was not the only one making pitches to players, Matthews appeared to be the less subtle one of the group.

Now Leafs fans have heard the speculation that the team could try to go after Doughty should he become a free agent after the 2018-19 season. It started when he made radio appearances in the offseason in Toronto and was asked about the possibility of coming home to play.

"“We would all want to play here,” Doughty said of players from the Southern Ontario region in an interview with Leafs Lunch, “especially with the team, the way they’re getting better and stuff like that, but I think it always comes down to how hard it would be to live in a city being that big of a celebrity. I’m spoiled in L.A. where I walk anywhere I want and not one person’s going to recognize me.“If, say I did for some reason play for the Leafs, I don’t know if I could get used to that or not. I think that’s the problem, why guys don’t sign here.”"

He also added fuel to the fire in an interview with Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic when asked to give his assessment of the team.

"DOUGHTY: I know, I honestly think they’re going to be a contender one of these days. I don’t think they are there yet. I think defensively they’re not good enough. But they’re a good team with a lot of firepower."

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He also went on to say that the Leafs would need their forwards to play a part in helping out their defenceman by offering support. Add to the fact that Doughty has played for Mike Babcock at the Olympics, it seemed like an ideal fit for a team that wants to be a consistent contender.

Doughty continued to add to the speculation of his future when he mentioned that he would talk with Erik Karlsson about contract demands which shows that he is less than certain about sticking around with the Los Angeles Kings.

While the Kings would get the advantage in negotiations seeing that they can offer an eight-year deal as opposed every other team that can only offer seven years. The issue could be the direction of the team who have struggled to get back to being a contender.

This could prove to be problematic for the Kings, because Doughty’s desire is to win Stanley Cups so if a team like Toronto could be a possibility then it could make the decision easier for him.

The obvious question for Leafs fans is how much of an interest is there in Doughty? The team is like a vault when it comes to rumours although there was no surprise to hear about their pursuit of Stamkos.

We even discussed this possibility on the Tip of the Tower podcast last month and I looked into whether Ontario players would want to return home to play for the Leafs.

If there is an opportunity to get a player that can elevate the Leafs into a consistent contender, the team would certainly be interested if the cost (salary or trade) makes sense. It sounds like Doughty wants to get a pay raise on the $7-million he makes right now. How much? That is tough to know but it could be in the $11-million range.

The Lonon, Ont., native will be 30 when he enters free agency, some teams may think twice to invest significant term and money for a player that will be in their late 30s at the end of their contract, especially one that gets used as much as Doughty does.

What will help Doughty is that he is on his way to establishing a career best season offensively. He previous high is 59 points which he had in his second season, right now he is on pace to match that but he is also capable of getting past that mark.

He also plays 27:13 a game which is most in the league, it takes a lot of pressure off other defenceman and he drives possession as well.

This will continue to be a highly speculated topic unless Doughty re-signs with the Kings, he gets traded or moves on in free agency. The Leafs will hope that free agency is a possibility but there will always be a risk with investing in a player like Doughty long-term but he is a proven winner.

Even Matthews thought it was worth asking.

Next: 4 storylines to follow after the All-Star Break

Are you tired of hearing rumours about Doughty? Is it realistic to expect Doughty to test free agency and consider the Leafs? Does it make sense to pursue him? Let us know in the comments,