Anthony Duclair a near-perfect fit for the Maple Leafs

Mike Armenti
May 19, 2024  (11:46)

Anthony Duclair
Photo credit: RDS

Pending UFA forward Anthony Duclair finished 2023-24 very strong and if he goes to free agency, here's why the Leafs should prioritize a deal for him.

Having played for eight NHL teams across his ten-year NHL career, it would be fair to call Duclair a journeyman forward. Still, despite all of the moving around, Duclair has been a surprisingly resilient and productive player when you consider the constant change he's had to endure.
Since being drafted by the New York Rangers in the 3rd round (80th overall) in 2013, Duclair has seen his career take him through Arizona, Chicago, Columbus, Ottawa, Florida, San Jose and Tampa Bay. Now, a pending UFA, Duclair may very soon find himself with a 9th jersey for his collection.
The 28-year-old has amassed 303 career NHL points in 563 career games, putting him above the .50 points per game marker at .54 points per game. This is very solid middle-six production from a player who hasn't moved around as much as Duclair has. Imagine what this guy could do with some term and a chance to plant some roots and get comfortable somewhere.
Duclair's most productive full season came back in 2021-22, when he posted 58 points in 74 games. However, his most productive stretch of games came just this season, as Duclair was near a point per game with 15 points across 17 games with the Lightning.
Duclair's estimated career earnings total just over $12M, with his most recent deal paying him just $3M per season over the last 3 seasons. Perhaps he'd be willing to take a similar cap hit in exchange for some term despite posting some of his best career numbers to close the year.
The Leafs are in need of some changes this summer, and Duclair is certainly a player who can come in and perform well in 3rd line usage, with some potential 2nd line upside. His level of production points to the Laval, PQ native being able to be an above average contributor and the Leafs would be smart to give him an opportunity this summer.
You can never have too much offense up and down your lineup and the Maple Leafs showed us this season that having a lot of defensively responsible forwards can get you to the playoffs, but won't always help you win in the playoffs when goal scoring is even more important than ever.
It's not as though Duclair is a slouch defensively either. He has posted positive takeaway to giveaway ratios and has blocked 35 shots in each of his last 2 seasons, as well as positive Corsi and Fenwick figures. There's no denying, though, that Duclair is an offense-first forward.
A struggling Leafs power play could benefit from having Duclair involved as well. While he didn't see much power play time in Tampa Bay, he produced 9 goals and 21 points on the PP in Florida in 2021-22.
For Duclair, I'm sure he'd entertain a 2 or 3-year deal at a similar cap hit to his current $3M AAV if it meant having the opportunity to avoid the constant moving from place to place. Now, it's just about whether or not Brad Treliving and company can see his value and/or if they can create some room for him in the middle six in Toronto.
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Anthony Duclair a near-perfect fit for the Maple Leafs

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