For the past three or four days the speculation surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs and Paul Stastny has escalated slightly. Stastny is due to earn $6.6 million dollars for the next two seasons and many people are making the natural assumption that with both Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Rielly occupying the top two centre positions in Colorado, Stastny would be available. Brian Burke desperately requires an influx of skill to his top line and Stastny would surely look great playing set up for Phil Kessel. If the Leafs are to acquire the 26 year old Stastny – an integral member of Burke’s silver medal winning 2010 American Olympic team – I’d be floored. Of course Burke has made these types of moves before, so it wouldn’t come as such a shock. However obtaining a young star centre who has already eclipsed 70 points three times in five seasons would be a significant coup. Earlier this morning though there was an odd development in this situation. Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post published this article stating that the Avalanche would be best served moving forward if they unloaded Duchene. If landing Stastny is a coup then acquiring Duchene would be a revolution.
Kliszla’s article focuses on flipping Duchene for one of two high scoring impact wingers currently thought to be available, Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan. I find it hard to believe that should the Avalanche seriously be looking to rid themselves of a centre that Duchene be the one out. The 21 year old Duchene is a former 3rd overall pick in the 2009 draft that up until this past season was thought to have been the better player than the 1st overall pick that season, John Tavares. Both Duchene and Tavares entered their third NHL seasons coming off of identical 67 point sophomore campaigns and the sky appeared to be the limit for two of Canada’s brightest young pivots. The turning point for Duchene appears to be a falling out with current AVS coach – and former Toronto Maple Leafs plugger – Joe Sacco. Google the names of Duchene and Sacco together and you will find a plethora of articles devoted to this ongoing feud. Regardless of how highly thought of Sacco might be as an up and coming coach, he really can’t be the one that Colorado general manager would choose in this issue, is he?
Leading up to the 2009 entry draft the Leafs were thought to be extremely interested in Duchene. In fact, the whole Burke looking to move up and select Tavares is widely considered to have been a diversion as Duchene was the blue and white’s target all along. Of course the Leafs and Burke could have very easily been in a position to select Duchene that season, unfortunately the Leafs decided to acquire goalie Martin Gerber late in the year in an odd move to ruin their draft position. Toronto – thanks to Gerber and Boyd Devereaux – ended up out of the lottery and selected the polarizing Nazem Kadri with the 7th overall selection. In the meantime Duchene has emerged over the last three seasons as the exact type of cornerstone franchise player that the Leafs lack up the middle. Watching Duchene flourish in Colorado has been like having an eyelash in my eye, it’s annoying and frustrating and I can’t help but cry a little.
Stranger Things Have Happened
Do I think that Kliszla is onto something? No, if Colorado is going to unload a centre it will most likely be Stastny. In my opinion Duchene is the type of young dynamic player that plays with a team for as long as he wants. However at this time last year if you asked me if the Leafs could acquire James van Riemsdyk I would have been just emphatic in squashing the idea. If Kliszla knows that Duchene has asked to be traded due to the poor relationship with Sacco that’s one thing, but nowhere has that been said. Could the Leafs somehow find a way to acquire Duchene should he be available? I would think Burke would take his best shot. As Kliszla points out the AVS are in need of scoring wingers, would a package led by Joffrey Lupul be sufficient? Probably not, but other than Kessel there really is no untouchable on the Leafs roster or in their system. Are these trade scenarios amusing? Probably, but so is the thought of Duchene getting traded. In the meantime the #9 and #26 blue and white sweaters are vacant awaiting Sherman’s decision on who will be the odd man out in Colorado.