Does Doughty Dream Scenario Even Make Sense for Maple Leafs?

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 28: Drew Doughty
DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 28: Drew Doughty /

Drew Doughty made some waves last week which immediately prompted some Toronto Maple Leafs dreams/rumours.

But does the Drew Doughty / Toronto Maple Leafs dream scenario even make sense?  Drew Doughty is from Toronto (London actually) and in the past he’s hinted that he wouldn’t mind playing for the Leafs.  He basically told the Athletic’s Chris Custance last week (and I’m paraphrasing here) that he wants to be the highest paid defenseman in the NHL, and that he’s not committed to either LA or Free Agency.

If you read between the lines, it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist or a tin-foil hat to draw the conclusion that, if the Leafs are interested, it’s something that could conceivably happen.

The question is, is it a smart move?  Do you pay $10 million per season for the last seven years of Drew Doughty’s career? Do you pay more for a shorter contract? Or do you trade for him now? Do you wait?  There’s lots to unpack, but instead of getting caught up in the how or the when of the Leafs acquiring him, let’s just for now focus on whether or not they should be interested in the first place.

How Good, Exactly, Is Drew Doughty?

It’s really hard to say.  He has scored roughly between 40-60 points every year for the last nine seasons.  He has two Stanley Cups.  He’s been under 50% CF just once in his career (when he was a rookie and his team sucked) and has been as high as 58% which is insane.

Doughty has never finished a season (other than his rookie year) with more than 25 shots allowed/60 (for context this year Roman Polak allows 35/60).  He is one of the best defensemen in the NHL and its not even debatable.  With most of the NHL’s best defenseman, you usually sacrifice defense for offense, or vise versa.  Doughty appears – along with arguably Duncan Keith and Victor Hedman – to be the best and most consistent offense and defense combo the NHL has to offer.

So Doughty is awesome. No question he is one of the top five defenseman currently playing in the NHL.  But, if you’re the Leafs, do you want to pay a player as the top defenseman in hockey when he’s at the tail end of his prime?  You’d be getting him between 27-29 and I guess you’d be paying him for seven years after that.

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Toronto Maple Leafs: Is it worth it?

I think it is.   It’s a shame that L.A is looking like a contender, because it would be ideal to get him now when he’s younger and signed cheaper than he will be.  But that isn’t happening.  Maybe next year, a sign and trade could go down in the summer.  Who knows? It’s more likely than getting him now, anyways.

But even if you have to wait two years and you have to pay him a ridiculous amount……so what? Right Handed defenseman are a rarity.  Players like Doughty – no known chronic injuries, not overtly physical, highly skilled – have held on to their skill into their late thirties.  I don’t think it happens enough that you can bank on it, but it seems like a reasonable risk vs reward decision to me. Chara is only 40 but if you made him the highest paid defenseman at 30 you’d be happy with your investment.

Duncan Keith, probably Doughty’s closest comparison, was 34 last year when he scored 50 points.

Morgan Rielly and Timothy Liljegren could exceed the ceilings of their potential, and still not come close to what Doughty is.  Provided you can keep the Leafs core of Marner-Matthews-Nylander-Rielly together, I would gladly pay Doughty whatever he wants.

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My opinion is this: the last five years of Doughty’s prime would  probably still the best five years any defenseman has ever played in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform. He’s from your hometown and clearly he has toyed with the idea.  Make it happen.