For a team that was historically bad last season, the Colorado Avalanche have yet to make a splash during the off-season. Acquiring Colin Wilson may help, but Avs fans expected more. The rumour mill has not stopped turning though as Colorado’s executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic has been in the spotlight since last season. The biggest rumours all involving one player, Matt Duchene.
For his credit, Duchene has been the epitome of a professional. The 26-year-old center has continued to make a name for himself since his rookie season. With 24 goals and 55 points that year, Duchene finished third in Calder Trophy voting. In fact, Duchene led all rookies in points, beating out the likes of John Tavares and Jamie Benn. Since then he has not stopped scoring, only failing to reach the 55-point mark three times in eight years. He still produced 41 points this past season while dealing with a revolving door of line mates.
A solid two-way forward, Duchene would challenge to be a top line center on most teams in the NHL. Constantly improving his face-off percentage makes him valuable on both ends of the ice, as well as special teams. His 62.6% on draws led the entire NHL last season for players taking at least 50 draws. It also made him one of only three players to win more than 60% of their draws. When Colorado made the decision to place him on the trade block, teams took notice.
The Asking Price
While Matt Duchene’s value is hard to argue, the rest of the league is trying their best to get a good deal. Sakic has set the price and nothing seems to scare him. He placed a player-prospect-pick price on Duchene and so far no team has met it. The hockey world thought Duchene might be moved last trade deadline. But after a few failed attempts Sakic decided to hold on to his young centreman. Then when the Expansion Draft rolled around, talks began to heat up once again. Soon those too were squashed and general managers were left to search their teams for a different angle. By the time July 1st rolled around Duchene was put on notice once again. Multiple teams had made offers and he was ready to move. But free agency day one came and went and Duchene still has an Avs jersey to wear.
General managers are still not comfortable giving up the asking price Sakic has placed in front of them. But for what it’s worth, Sakic is right. For a player of Duchene’s calibre and pedigree, he needs to ask for the world. Since being drafted 3rd overall, Duchene has brought the struggling Colorado team to the playoffs twice. He has led his team in scoring four times and been a perennial contender for All Star nods. If not for Nathan MacKinnon, Duchene would have been the Avs representative almost every season. Losing him would be a significant blow to an already weak squad, which makes Sakic’s waiting game make sense. The fan base would not accept anything less than a king’s ransom for one of the faces of the franchise. Nor should they.
Where Does Matt Duchene Go?
The saga has been ongoing since before the All Star break last season. Talks have heated up and then gone cold multiple times. But something has changed recently. Teams are beginning to stock up on players, and some potential trade destinations are looking more realistic with every passing day.
Don Sweeney isn’t about to purge the farm to get Duchene. But talks have been heating up recently between the Boston Bruins and Sakic. Sakic is still asking for Brandon Carlo, the player Sweeney outright said he would not move in January. If Sweeney softens his stance on moving Carlo, this deal could be done anytime.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Seeing as Sakic would love to pick up a defenseman, Columbus could be an ideal landing spot. Ryan Murray has been a name floating out in trade discussion as well as 20-year-old prospect Gabriel Carlsson. Both highly touted, both possible trade baits for Sakic to pounce on. If the Blue Jackets are willing to move both, Sakic may not be able to say no.
Speaking of defensemen, Colorado should look no further than the Western Conference champions from last year. With at least seven NHL defensemen now on the roster after the addition of Alexei Emelin from Vegas, Nashville could be itching to move one or two for a player like Duchene. Needing goal scoring, a one-two punch up the middle of Ryan Johansen and Duchene could be just the push the Preds need to lift the Stanley Cup.
Whether or not Matt Duchene is moved to one of these teams, the story seems pretty simple. Sakic knows what he wants and is not willing to waver from his asking price. For a player like Duchene, he shouldn’t have to undersell. For his part, Duchene has been keeping a positive attitude and not letting the rumours affect his personal life. He is spending the summer with his family hoping to know where he is playing soon. Hopefully for all involved this entire saga does end soon and the hockey world can get back to business. The Avalanche will not be as bad as they were last season, but bringing in the asking price for Duchene may make the future a little easier to swallow.