According to TSN, the Colorado Avalanche are interested in shaking up their roster by trading Matt Duchene. Currently in his seventh NHL season, the 24-year-old Duchene is a former third-overall pick, and one of the highest profile players to be on the trade market in some time. His name coming up, however, is not surprising because the Avalanche have the 6th worst record in the NHL and the worst possession stats in the league, so things don’t look like they have any chance to get better.
If a change is needed, Duchene is the obvious candidate because the team has forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Nathon MacKinnon to build around, but could pretty obviously use a defensemen to go with Tyson Barrie.
The problem? While Duchene is an excellent – close to elite – scorer (three times in his career he’s hit 45 5v5 points in a season, but he’s also only ever hit 70 points once and never been a point-per-game player) he lacks a defensive game and is consistently a negative possession player, thus making his $6 million cap-hit (for three more years after this one) somewhat prohibitive.
Duchene is a good scorer, but much like Phil Kessel, that’s all he really does.
The Leafs should have zero interest in acquiring this player. Colorado isn’t going to be giving him away, and the Leafs don’t need to be trading the kind of assets it would take to take to acquire a one-dimensional scoring star who is 24 years old. I seem to remember them trying something like that before and it not working out too hot.
For the Leafs, Matt Duchene is a non-starter.
Vs. Predators + Trading Phaneuf
A lot of people mocked me when I said that the Leafs were way better than their record suggested and that subsequently, their record would improve to the point where they were too good of a team to secure the top-five pick that should be the only goal of this season. Since then, they have beaten Dallas for a second time, and then defeated the Predators, both on the road.
Last night’s game featured the kind of luck the Leafs weren’t getting early in the season, and despite being badly outplayed by Nashville, they were able to steal one in the shootout, largely thanks to James Reimer.
It’s nice to see them win, but, hypothetically speaking, they now have two games in hand on the Lightning and if they were to win those they would be only two points, or a single win, out of third in the Atlantic and a Playoff spot.
The Leafs cannot be sidetracked by any minor success like they have been in the past, making moves (or standing pat) with the hope of over-achieving. The fact is, a Calgary-like rise to the top while they are supposed to be rebuilding is the worst thing that could happen to the Leafs, and, as I’ve said, they need to make moves now – not at the deadline – to make their team worse than it currently is.
A good way to do this would be to move Roman Polak and Matt Hunwick for anything they can bring back. If that is less now than it might be later, the opportunity to a) get a higher draft pick, and b) play Frank Corrado/Martin Marincin/Stuart Percy more than makes up for it.
The problem with this move, is that Percy and Marincin playing a regular shift over Hunwick and Polak actually makes the Leafs a better team right now, so while getting Corrado into the lineup is important (just for the human element, even) more has to be done.
Dion Phaneuf is a must trade. I am a fan of his, and in a perfect world the Leafs would keep him. However, moving him makes them worse right now (in theory at least) and allows Gardiner and Rielly to take the more prominent role they deserve and have earned.
Looking through the salary caps of the rest of the teams in the NHL, the best fit, in my opinion, for Phaneuf is with the Flyers. The Leafs could send Phaneuf and Shawn Matthias ($9.3 million cap-hit) to the Flyers for Vincent Lecavelier, R.J Umberger and Mark Streit ($14.35 million cap-hit). This would allow the Leafs to use their financial might to give the Flyers $5 million in cap-space in exchange for taking the longer term of Phaneuf’s contract. The Leafs would of course need some incentive to do this, and the Flyers are a team that should be and wants to compete this year, so some kind of extra compensation for Toronto – whether one of the Flyer’s prospects or a draft pick – would be in order.
If the Leafs were to begin making moves similar in nature to what I am proposing above now, instead of at the deadline, then they would improve their chances of selecting in the top-five next year while also having the needed roster flexibility needed to work some of their young players into the lineup.
Also, if they really want to get worse now and “scorch the earth,” like they said they would, trading Van Riemsdyk is clearly the easiest move to make. Are the Leafs truly committed to rebuilding the right way? What they do with JVR will definitively answer than question.
Thanks for reading.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.