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Do the Maple Leafs Have Matt Duchene on Speed Dial?

Today, in a surprise, the Nashville Predators bought out Matt Duchene. Could the Toronto Maple Leafs be interested in calling his agent?

A funny thing happened today in the NHL. Three players became immediate free-agent targets for the Toronto Maple Leafs. These players were Matt Duchene, Blake Wheeler, and Kailer Yamamoto.

Related: Keefe Returns as Maple Leafs’ Coach: What Do Fans Think?

Would Any of These Three Buyouts Fit the Maple Leafs’ Needs?

The NHL buyout window presented some unexpected opportunities for a number of NHL teams to reshape their rosters. One team is the Maple Leafs. In yesterday’s post, I noted that the team was quiet on the free-agent front because (as GM Brad Treliving noted) the players wanted too much money.

Has today changed that? Of the three players named, would any fit the Maple Leafs’ needs? The one that’s easiest to eliminate from the Maple Leafs’ shopping list is Yamamoto. He’s simply too small. He’s skilled, but he simply doesn’t fit into the profile it seems new Maple Leafs’ GM Brad Treliving is seeking. He might be more of a Kyle Dubas reclamation project in Pittsburgh.

Kailer Yamamoto Edmonton Oilers NHL
Kailer Yamamoto, formerly of the Edmonton Oilers NHL

Perhaps Wheeler can also be eliminated. While he’s played most of his career in Canada, he’s an American from Minnesota. I am only guessing that he’d like to finish his NHL career playing in the United States. I could be wrong on that; and, if I am, he might be a low-cost and interesting possibility for secondary scoring for the Maple Leafs. He’s a hard-working character player who can contribute.

Matt Duchene Is Perhaps the Maple Leafs’ Best Target

However, could it be that the surprisingly recent buyout – Matt Duchene – might want to take a one-year flyer to sign on with the Maple Leafs? I can see a few reasons why he might sign on for a team-friendly short-term contract.

First, he is from Haliburton, Ontario, which is only about two and a half hours drive north of Toronto. Second, the Maple Leafs are perennial playoff contenders and Duchene has only played a total of 32 games in the playoffs – not coming close to winning the Stanley Cup. Third, given that he’d likely be a top-six forward on the Maple Leafs, he could put up the kind of big numbers that might make him attractive for one last bigger contract with another team.

The Maple would likely want him as well – for the right price. Last season, he scored a megre 22 goals and added 34 assits for 56 points. But in 2021-22, he was a point-a-game player with 43 goals and 43 assists (for 86 points) in 78 games with the Nashville Predators.

Related: Maple Leafs Not Signing Free Agents? Too Rich for Their Blood

Duchene’s Buyout Was a Surprise

Duchene’s buyout by the Predators was a surprise. He’s still known for his speed and ability to generate scoring chances off the rush. He was once considered one of the top forwards in the NHL. Could he have fallen so far from grace in such a short time?

Duchene is now 32 years old. That’s a productive age. However, the Predators didn’t feel they could afford his $8 million salary cap hit. They had moved Ryan Johansen (on the feature image) to the Colorado Avalanche for basically a song.

All that doesn’t mean Duchene isn’t still a strong offensive player. I would be surprised if the Maple Leafs didn’t at least contact Duchene’s agent about the possibility of his coming to Toronto.

Matt Duchene buyout Nashville Predators
Matt Duchene buyout by the Nashville Predators

For the three reasons I have offered, you would think that asking Duchene’s agent wouldn’t hurt. He might be open to signing one or two-year contract that fits easily within the Maple Leafs’ tight financial constraints.

Who Knows? Could the Maple Leafs Have Already Called Duchene’s Agent?

Duchene’s unexpected availability could be of benefit for the Maple Leafs. As the free agent frenzy begins today, Maple Leafs’ fans might want to keep their eyes on any possible deals that might fall into the Maple Leafs’ lap.

Could signing Matt Duchene be one of the surprises of this offseason? Perhaps not, but there will be potential surprises ahead. Count on it.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Holmberg, Keefe, Nylander & Meier

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