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Are the Maple Leafs Lurking in the Background of the Matt Duchene Trade Talks?

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NBC’s Pierre McGuire told a Toronto radio station yesterday that the Maple Leafs are after the Avalanche forward

Colorado Avalanche v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It’s no secret that Matt Duchene has likely played his last game as a Colorado Avalanche. We know that Joe Sakic & Co. have been working on trading the 26-year old forward who is coming off a career-worst season. What we don’t know is where he’ll end up, or what kind of return the Avs will get for him.

We’ve all heard the rumors about the Islanders - though is seems like those might be dead now that Travis Hamonic has been moved to Calgary - and we know that Carolina is another team that has been in the mix. Yesterday, another name popped up as a potential suitor for Duchene - the Toronto Maple Leafs.

On TSN1050 Toronto, NBC’s Pierre McGuire dropped the bombshell that the Maple Leafs are in on Matt Duchene.

“The one name I keep hearing associated with the Leafs is Matt Duchene. I don’t know if that’s true or not but it’s the name I keep hearing”

I know, I know, Pierre McGuire isn’t exactly the most reliable source - but whether you like him as a color guy or not, he does have connections around the league. Other more respected sources like Elliotte Friedman have also mentioned the Leafs trying to do something ‘big’ - trading for Matt Duchene could definitely be classified as big.

What Would the Return Need to Be?

It’s been widely reported that Sakic is looking for a defender as the centerpiece of a return for Duchene. Given that as a benchmark, it’s hard to see the Maple Leafs as a legitimate trade partner. Like the Avs, Toronto is not very strong on the blueline. It would be hard to imagine them parting with either Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner - and the Leafs don’t have anyone else good enough to warrant trading an elite talent like Matt Duchene for.

Let’s say, however, that McGuire is right and Toronto has in fact been talking with the Avs about Duchene, what could the asking price possibly be?

Earlier this morning, Arthur Staples tweeted what he believes was the final offer from the Islanders for Duchene. Building off of that, we can tell that the Avs are looking to hit an absolute home run in any Duchene trade - because depending on the prospect that is a pretty solid offer.

Toronto has a very good young group of forwards and while most believe the Avs are looking for a defender in return, maybe a deal could be done for a package centered around some high-end forward prospects. Jeremy Bracco is a name that could be of interest to any team trying to trade with the Leafs. He’s coming off a great season in the OHL and has the type of high-end offensive talent that some believe fits perfectly in today’s NHL. While he likely wouldn’t make the Leafs this season, Bracco would have a very good chance of slotting into a middle-6 right-wing role with the Avs right away.

Another name is Connor Brown. The 23-year old RFA is coming off a season that saw him score 20-goals as a rookie - a total that would have tied him for the team lead in Colorado.

If a high-end defender is what is needed to get the deal done, the Leafs also have Travis Dermott - a solid all-around defenseman that some believe is ready for the NHL next season. At only 20-years old, Dermott is viewed as a guy that will be a top-4 defender in the NHL down the road.

Would a package centered around Dermott, one (or both) of Bracco and Brown as well as next year’s 1st round pick be enough to get the Avs to bite on a Duchene deal? I wouldn’t take it, but crazier things have happened.

Quality Over Quantity

If the report from Staples is in fact, the offer the Avs turned down from the Islanders, we can infer that the Avs are looking for one of two things as a return for their star forward - a better defender than Travis Hamonic, or quality over quantity.

When building fantasy trades, fans inevitably go with “Player X + Prospect Y + 1st + 2nd”. What we’ve seen over the past few seasons, is that NHL General Managers much prefer a one for one quality over quantity type trade. Hall for Larsson, Weber for Subban, Segachev for Drouin, Jones for Johansen.

If the Maple Leafs were willing to part with one of Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner, you’d assume a one for one trade would have already been consummated. So what are the other options in Toronto that might be of interest to the Colorado front office?William Nylander is a name that consistently comes up in the Toronto media, but the fact of the matter is that he’s not getting traded - the Leafs aren’t that dumb. Another name is James van Riemsdyk. The left-winger has been discussed as a trade target this offseason, thanks to his contract status. He is a proven elite power forward and would be a great fit in Colorado’s top-6. The problem is that you’re not going to trade Duchene for JVR unless you’re getting the latter to agree to a contract extension - something he almost certainly won’t do with the Avs.

It’s Not Very Likely

Even though he has a reputation of being a bit of a dubious source, I’m not going to assume McGuire’s statement is wrong - Toronto has every reason to be interested in Duchene. I just don’t think the two teams are realistic trade partners.

The Hamonic thing seemed like a no-brainer until things broke down during the draft. If, as rumored, Carolina is willing to part with one of their young defenders like Justin Faulk or Noah Hanifin, you’d think that would make a lot more sense for the Avs. There are a few other options that would make sense than Toronto - Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, even Philly.

The Leafs would likely love to add a top-end local boy to their group of elite forwards, but it’s just hard to picture a deal that works. That being said, crazier things have happened.