The Nasvhille Predators need to add some scoring in order to push for a deep playoff run this season has been discussed of late. They did make a move for a forward, acquiring Vernon Fiddler last Saturday in exchange for a fourth rounder in this year’s draft. However, Fiddler has only three points on the season through 41 games, so he’s not exactly a big scorer. He adds a veteran presence in the room and will be used as the fourth-line center after the Predators waived Mike Ribeiro.
The Predators could still use some depth throughout the lineup. Rumors are flying lately that the team is interested in Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche continue to struggle and appear to be at the point where they want to dismantle the team and begin a large-scale rebuild. Can the Predators be the team to acquire Duchene? Are they willing to pay the price? The Predators should pursue Matt Duchene, but need to stay reasonable about it.
The Predators Should Pursue Matt Duchene
Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports calls Duchene an “obvious fit” for the Predators. He is a big-name center who would add scoring and speed to the Predators lineup. Throughout his career, Duchene has performed consistently. In a full 82 game season, Duchene is good for 50 plus points, closer to 60, really. In the three seasons prior to this one, he scored 70, 55, and 59 points in 71, 82 and 76 games, respectively. This season, he boasts 15 goals and 32 points points in 46 games, while his team has been abysmal. At 26 years old, Duchene is firmly in his prime, and should keep up his current production. If he can play at the level he did in 2013-2014, where he scored nearly a point-per-game, even better.
Duchene would complement Nashville’s faster players, and solidify the team down the middle. He could slide right into a second line centre role, giving the Predators a combination of Ryan Johansen, Duchene, Mike Fisher, Calle Jarnkrok/Fiddler down the middle. Duchene can also play on the wing, as he has in the past. Additionally, he would instantly bolster the Predator’s power play. He carries a reasonable cap hit of $6 million per year and is signed through the 2018-2019 season. This would be plenty comfortable for the Predators, especially after Ribeiro’s $3.5 million contract expires at the end of this season. Surely Duchene is a player that any team would love to have given what he adds.
What Would the Predators Have to Give?
The cost for a player like Duchene is, of course, very high. Teams covet high-talent centers. David Poile traded away Seth Jones to get Ryan Johansen just last year. According to Bob McKenzie at TSN, the reported asking price for Duchene is “a young player who is established in the NHL already, between 20 and 24 years of age, as well as a first-round pick, as well as a top prospect.” McKenzie notes that if an established player is not included in the deal, then the price would be “four high-end pieces.” That is quite the price-tag for a player. Could the Predators afford it?
The Avalanche would certainly be looking for a defenseman to slot into their top four. The Predators have an abundance of able defensemen. The Predators could offer one of Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm. My preference here would definitely be Ekholm. He is 26 years old, and fits the bill for the Avalanche. He put up 35 points last year, and has 18 so far this year. The Predators would hate to lose Ekholm, but with the expansion draft approaching, it may be better to move him now and get something for him than to lose a defenseman for nothing.
As far as prospects are involved, it has been suggested that the Predators could move one of Dante Fabbro, Samuel Gerard, or Alexandre Carrier. All three of these defenesemen are having very productive seasons. Fabbro, the team’s first pick in 2016, is playing for Boston University. Gerard, chosen in the second round last year, has 56 points in 43 games playing for Shawinigan of the QMJHL. Carrier has 25 points in 44 games playing with the Predators’ AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. Any of these three would sweeten the deal for the Avalanche.
Wyshynski also suggests that the Predators could consider a one-to-one of Roman Josi for Duchene, but this seems a curious move. Josi is a top defenseman who can play minutes as a one or a two. Given the premium on good, young defenseman right now, Duchene may not be a suitable return for Josi. The Oilers gave up Taylor Hall who has similar career numbers to Duchene, albeit not at center, for Adam Larsson. Larsson is a good player, but has neither the offensive nor the underlying numbers of Josi.
The Predators should of course pursue a player like Duchene. He could take this current Predators team over the top and give them three lines that can score on a nightly basis. They need to be realistic about what they give back, however. The Avalanche’s current asking price is steep, and to give away a roster defenseman, a defensive prospect, and a first-round pick could cripple the team in the future. There is a line between doing what is best for the team now and doing what is best for the future. David Poile will be responsible in deciding how far he is willing to go. If the Predators cannot lower the asking price on Duchene, they still might not want to hang up the phone on the Avalanche. Left-winger Gabriel Landeskog could be another trade target who likely would not fetch quite the return of Duchene.
Main Photo: DENVER, CO – JANUARY 6: Matt Duchene (9) of the Colorado Avalanche carries the puck into the zone during the third period against the New York Islanders at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on October 6, 2017. The Avalanche won 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Statistics from NHL.com and eliteprospects.com. All stats current as of February 02, 2017 at 11:00 AM CST.