Following the media availability of Kyle Dubas this week, analysts, scribes, fans, and insiders are trying to read between every line and dissect every word the current GM said, thinking he might have revealed something about his plans if he were to return next season to run the show.
Among them, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic wrote in a recent column that if the Toronto Maple Leafs choose to retain Dubas, or he elects to come back following a “very taxing” year on his family, it’s possible Dubas is more open than he’s ever been when it comes to the idea of trading one of his “core four.” Specifically, LeBrun seems to think Mitch Marner is the most likely casualty or trade piece used to retool the roster.
Citing the comments Dubas made about the calculated trade by the Florida Panthers to acquire Matthew Tkachuk from the Calgary Flames, LeBrun suggested that Marner is the best comparable to that type of trade. Marner is likely the easiest of all the forwards to move because of his contract and how many teams will be interested if he hits the market. From there, he believes the Maple Leafs would be able to garner the highest return in a deal that teams would jump at.
Obviously, if Toronto made Auston Matthews available, there would be teams moving heaven and earth to find the pieces needed to acquire him, but there would be fewer clubs with the wherewithal to make that deal work, then potentially pay Matthews what he’ll command on the open market. Not only that, but LeBrun writes, “I think Auston Matthews is probably off the table.” Calling him a top-five player in the world, he adds, “The Leafs will focus 100 percent on signing him to an extension, and No. 34 made it clear in his end-of-season media availability that he wants to sign and stay (although the price point on said extension remains an interesting conversation to be had).”
John Tavares has a no-move clause and has absolutely no desire to waive it to go elsewhere. He’s willing to move around and switch positions versus agreeing to a trade. Even if he were to agree, there are a number of teams that would balk at the idea of trading for his contract.
He also writes, “Nylander is a possibility, but the fact that he has just one year left on his contract creates the complication of having to trade him with an extension done to maximize trade value.” Any deal would likely include Nylander and his agent talking to the team he’d be going to and working out an extension. If that’s not on the table, the acquiring team would severely limit what they’d offer in return.
That leaves Marner.
What Would the Maple Leafs Get in Return?
LeBrun calls a Marner deal the cleanest of all possible “core four” trades. There’s no need to immediately work out an extension, the player has legitimate value, and his no-move doesn’t kick in until July 1. LeBrun then wonders what the return would be.
But what would entice the Leafs to move a player of Marner’s immense talent? What would it take for them to consider it a franchise-forwarding deal? To me, that’s a deal that has to at least net a top-pairing defenseman.
As for who the Leafs might target, that’s unclear. One thing LeBrun did note was that nobody saw the Florida and Calgary deal coming, so that leaves open the possibility of almost anything.
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