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Colorado Avalanche

Dreger feels Senators and Blue Jackets are Duchene front-runners

(Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire)

Where Matt Duchene will end up is anyone’s guess at this point, but the odds may be favoring the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets at this time.

We’ve certainly heard the latter referenced a lot, including early-September mentions from Elliotte Friedman here and here.

The Senators have also been mentioned at various stages of Duchene-related trade rumors over the past few years, it’s true; but with a conclusion to this drama needing to come to fruition soon, it seems that Ottawa is potentially charging back to the front of the pack.

References to the Senators have been plentiful in the past few days on the Insider beat, including Darren Dreger’s radio tour.

During a Thursday morning hit on Edmonton’s TSN 1260, Dreger was – not surprisingly – asked for his latest on the 26-year-old forward.

“As of yesterday, nothing new,” Dreger relayed. “That was word I got from one source who is pretty actively involved in this watch on a day-by-day basis.

“Matt Duchene has got his head down and he’s just trying to stay focused on his game individually, that’s what he has to do. He’s got to continue to push through camp, he’s hoping to have a good preseason and unfortunately, if he’s got to start the year – regular season – with the Colorado Avalanche, he doesn’t have much choice. He’s got to do that.”

Dreger pointed out that “there’s still considerable interest” in Matt Duchene.

“Ottawa has surfaced since we talked about it on Insider Trading on Tuesday, but Pierre Dorion’s interest in Duchene has been consistent for more than a year now. He’s just not confident, I don’t believe, that he’s going to get Matt Duchene because the ask has always been too rich for the Sens. At one point it was Ceci and maybe the young defenseman Thomas Chabot had to be involved. There are some pretty key forwards in the Ottawa Senators that are rumored to potentially have been part of an ask as well.

“Well, until Dorion gets to a place where he’s comfortable pulling the trigger and he can get Joe Sakic to accept the transaction – and that’s a big if – Matt Duchene is going to have to stay where he is, and that’s in Colorado.

“Ottawa is not the only player in this. I mean, Columbus is pretty keen. I think Nashville has circled back. Anaheim wants to add another forward, and I think the Anaheim Ducks have kind of quietly been pushing as well.”

Duchene, naturally, has been the most popular topic on Dreger’s tour of radio stations this week.

Wednesday evening, during an appearance on Toronto’s TSN 1050, potential interest from the Canucks was the jumping off point for the Duchene discussion.

“There have been a number of teams with an expression of interest in Matt Duchene,” began Dreger. “Shocking. There’s a news flash. Vancouver is among them. But to say that the Vancouver Canucks are in the mix? No, they were one of the teams that talked to Joe Sakic about Matt Duchene. So as I was told, they inquired like a lot of teams, but it really didn’t go that far. Well, they wouldn’t have the right fit because the assets that Sakic would want from Vancouver would be young guys. They’re in a rebuild. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

“But Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa are the Canadian teams that have seemingly expressed the most interest. So we’ll see where it goes. I still feel like Ottawa and the Columbus Blue Jackets are the front-runners.”

The conversation on 1050 included a little more on the Senators.

“I think that Pierre Dorion has been perhaps the most aggressive in trying to find a fit,” noted Dreger. “Is he willing to give up Cody Ceci? No. Chabot? I don’t know, probably not. Certainly not a package that would include both those guys.

“But is Sakic willing to shift over to one of the young forwards or a forward from the Ottawa Senators. I mean, I think that that’s what Dorion keeps digging towards. But until Sakic is ready to make a decision, Duchene isn’t going anywhere.”

Dreger also phoned in to Ottawa’s TSN 1200 on Wednesday afternoon. While some of the same points were touched on, we can also glean a little more insight here and there into the dynamics of the situation as it relates to teams, including the Senators.

“I think Ottawa’s interest has been consistent and persistent,” indicated Dreger. “But I don’t feel like Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators feel like they’re any closer today to making a deal with Colorado for Matt Duchene than they might have been a couple of weeks ago, or even longer than that.

“And it’s a complicated one. It’s been complicated for close to two years now. Joe Sakic values what he has in the asset of Matt Duchene. Even as late as the draft this summer, he had a very specific list of wants. I think that he’s shifted off that a little bit. There was some speculation that specific to Ottawa he was looking for Cody Ceci to be part of the package, and Ottawa wanted no part of that. I think that there’s been an adjustment, and there’s been at least a willingness to potentially talk about a forward, but even that is speculation at best at this stage.

“But when I look at the list of teams that Sakic has talked to, I look at Ottawa being near the top of that list. And I put the Columbus Blue Jackets right on the same level, if not a rung below. There’s interest from Ottawa. There’s interest from Columbus. There’s interest from a lot of teams. But the sources that I’m talking to are hesitant to say where they’re at in the process because frankly they don’t know. That’s up to Sakic.”

Ceci, 23, is skating into the back half of his two-year, $5.6 million contract. He’ll be a restricted free agent eligible for arbitration.

Chabot was the 18th overall selection in the 2015 draft and earlier this week Bob McKenzie said that while he thinks that the Avalanche would like to get Chabot from the Senators, “that’s a non-starter.”

The reluctance for general managers to pay a big price for Duchene isn’t necessarily related to any hesitancy about his talent level (although every GM wants to get a bargain where possible, and Duchene was not productive last season on a team that was drowning in the standings), it’s simply the fact that he only has two years left on his contract. Any extension couldn’t be signed until the summer of 2018, which means acquiring teams wouldn’t have any certainty about having Duchene beyond these two years of his pact.

McKenzie explained this simply on Wednesday.

Time is running out for Sakic if he wants to truly give his team a fresh (and distraction-free) start for 2017-18, since his team is set to play its first regular season game on October 5 against the New York Rangers.

Source: TSN 1260, TSN 1050, TSN 1200, CapFriendly

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