Yesterday, rumour broke that the Maple Leafs are one of six teams expressing interest Joe Thornton.

It’s a rumour we’ve all fantasized about since Mats Sundin left in 2008: Trading for, as one esteemed AM640 post-game caller once called him, “Horton, the one who plays with Choochoo” [insert Andy Frost’s epic “JOE THORNTON!?” retort here].

Who doesn’t like the general idea of acquiring Joe Thornton, an elite playmaker and big-bodied center who is always near the top of the League in assists? He’s probably got a couple of good years left in him. In my particular fantasy, I’d play him with Clarkson and maybe JvR, creating a great little line that can go to work down low. Thornton is dominant at protecting the puck, making skilled plays in tight spaces and is an elite distributor of the puck. Clarkson is a slow-cycle type of player, cannot create offensive opportunity on his own and could use the service. It all sounds perfect in my head.

And I’d build a nice little package around some combination of Tyler Bozak, James Reimer and/or Cody Franson to do it.

But then there’s reality. He may not even move, first of all, and won’t be if his brother-agent’s reaction to the rumour is any indication. Secondly, he’d need to waive his NMC to come to Toronto (who are not a contender, which is critical) and appears to have no interest in leaving San Jose. Thirdly, Doug Wilson is going to want a package that includes the next 10-15 years of Jake Gardiner (or Nazem Kadri) to make this deal for a 35-year-old Thornton  happen. It’s only the type of deal the Leafs could make if they knew they were a veteran 70pt center away from having a real chance at the Stanley Cup in the next 2 years and had the depth to do it without one of those young two players. Alas, they aren’t and they don’t.

It’s a nice thought, but these aren’t the early-millennium Maple Leafs from the precap era. Unless Wilson wants to entertain my fantasy trade proposal (and Thornton is willing to come here), the slow build, however wobbly it may be, likely continues.

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