There is no more pretending in Colorado that the relationship between Avalanche center Matt Duchene and general manager Joe Sakic is anything but toxic. Duchene made that clear in a 15-second statement to media on the first day of training camp.
“I’m here to honor my contract,” Duchene told reporters on Thursday at South Suburban Family Sports Center in Centennial, Colo. “I’m here out of respect for the fans. I’m here for my teammates. I had a great summer training and I’m in good physical condition. Thanks so much. I’ll see you in the next couple days, OK? Thank you.”
Matt Duchene will not answer questions. "Only here out of respect for teammates" pic.twitter.com/SHvWrjsFLs
— Adrian Dater (@adater) September 14, 2017
With that, Duchene departed and did not speak to the media on Friday or Saturday.
Most of the details of this mess are already exposed in bright sunlight. Duchene is coming off a 41-point season in which he averaged .62 points per game, his worst average since 2011-12 and a performance that mirrored Colorado’s ugly, 48-point season, which was 21 points worse than the next closest team.
It is clear Duchene wants to be traded. It is clear Sakic wants and needs to trade him, yet Sakic continues to hold out for a higher price. That’s laudable on face value. Duchene has great value as at least a No. 2 center who had 30 goals and 59 points just two seasons ago. Colorado needs to rebuild. It has few pieces for its future. A Duchene trade could speed the process.
The more public this spat becomes, however, the less inclined other GMs will be to offer good return, and Sakic hasn’t helped matters by implying in those conversations that Duchene has attitude issues. That may be true or Duchene may just have issues with Sakic, but Colorado is not going to get fair value for Duchene now. Sakic should have dealt him at last year’s trade deadline before the optics on his situation took on a dark and desperate look.
Duchene isn’t above criticism. He hasn’t tried to hide his displeasure and this latest incident will cast a pall over a team that needs to move on and move forward. All of the backstabbing by Sakic and former coach Joe Sacco brought this relationship to a point of irreconcilable differences, though, and now Sakic is holding Duchene hostage.
Maybe Sakic is hoping Duchene will increase his value with a hot start and then Sakic can deal him for better return. That’s probably wishful thinking. Duchene isn’t happy and he admitted that last season’s team vibe was brutal beyond public knowledge. Unhappy players rarely play to their potential. It’s time to cut bait and move on, whatever the return. Nashville and Columbus are among the teams believed to be interested in acquiring Duchene.
KNOW WHEN TO HOLD ‘EM, KNOW WHEN TO FOLD ‘EM
Vegas has 11 defensemen on one-way contracts and only one is waiver eligible. There’s little doubt that Golden Knights GM George McPhee believed acquiring so many assets at such a valuable position through the expansion draft would help him build his team a little faster, but it hasn’t worked out that way.
Vegas was able to use its leverage to engineer other trades before the expansion daft. The tables have turned since then. Other GMs have leverage on McPhee. Only Shea Theodore can be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers, and he is probably not a player the Knights want to demote.
Maybe Vegas can still pull off some trades with clubs whose waiver claims would fall below others in the pecking order. Maybe GMs will just wait it out, knowing that Vegas is going to lose a few players. Why give up assets for a defenseman when that same defenseman will be sitting curbside in a few weeks, free for the taking?
Then again, maybe McPhee isn’t losing much sleep over the prospect of losing players such as Brad Hunt, Griffin Reinhart and Jon Merrill.
Veteran forward and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr remains unsigned four days into training camp. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman opined that Jagr could start the season overseas, play in the Olympics and then return to the NHL.
Friedman also believes the Arizona Coyotes were one of the teams that contacted Jagr. When asked about this, Arizona GM John Chayka texted this response: “I talked to everyone, as you know. Always looking to improve our group.” While Chayka did his due diligence, he added that there is “no dialogue” with Jagr’s camp now.
- What did Bruins forward David Pastrnak do to celebrate his new six-year, $40 contract? “I got dinner yesterday for $8 at Sarku Japan: rice and chicken teriyaki. That’s the first thing I did,” Pastrnak told reporters Saturday after his first training camp practice.
- With Pastrnak and Colorado’s Nikita Zadorov signed, Columbus’ Josh Anderson and Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou are the only remaining restricted free agents left unsigned. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that Athanasiou (18 goals, 29 points last season) and the Detroit Red Wings are working on a one- or two-year deal. Last month, Athanasiou’s agent Darren Ferris said the 23-year-old forward “received a significant offer” to play in the KHL. The Athletic Cleveland’s Aaron Portzline reported Saturday that there is nothing new in talks with Anderson, who had 17 goals and 29 points last season.
- Former Coyotes coach Dave Tippett is serving as a guest coach for the St. Louis Blues during training camp, acting as an extra set of eyes for evaluation. Tippett has strong ties to Blues GM Doug Armstrong and coach Mike Yeo. As the Dallas Stars GM, Armstrong hired Tippett as coach in 2002. Tippett coached Yeo with the AHL’s Houston Aeros. Tippett, 56, parted ways with the Coyotes one day before the NHL draft in June. He won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in 2010 with the Coyotes. “Enjoying it!” Tippett texted.
- The Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks departed Sunday to take part in the 2017 NHL China Games. The Kings and Canucks play preseason games at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai on Thursday (7:30 a.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports) and Wukesong Arena in Beijing on Saturday (3:30 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports). They will also teach hockey to kids at events and speak to the Chinese media, and there will be an NHL Fan Fest in Beijing. Shanghai, with a greater metropolitan population of 34 million, and Beijing (24.9 million) are the third- and sixth-largest metropolises in the world. The NHL is thinking long term when marketing the game to the world’s most populous nation (1.3 billion).