Matt Duchene may still be a member of the Colorado Avalanche, but a trade could still potentially be consummated later this summer.
NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman outlined how that might happen as part of a Thursday afternoon discussion on Edmonton’s 630 CHED when he was asked both about Duchene surprisingly still being with the Avalanche and also Tyson Barrie having been mentioned recently as possibly being a trade candidate.
“Tyson Barrie was definitely available,” confirmed Friedman. “But I was told that was going to be a hockey deal.
“Duchene… some people rip the Avalanche and they say they’re being obstinate. Their perspective is – look, one of the guys Columbus was talking about was Ryan Murray. And I really don’t like where I’m going to go with this because I have a bad feeling it’s going to be totally misinterpreted – because I don’t want to insult Ryan Murray. But the way Colorado looks at it is he is their fifth defenseman. ‘We’re not trading Matt Duchene for a fifth defenseman.’
“Now, I don’t think that Ryan Murray is a fifth defenseman. I think on that team he has become one. And he has become expendable. They look at Werenski. They look at Savard. Look at their trade for Seth Jones. They’ve got a couple of really good young kids coming. They’ve kept their veteran in Jack Johnson.
“So in Columbus’ eyes, Murray has fallen down their depth chart. And I think Colorado looks at that and says, ‘Why are we going to make a deal for a guy – yes, he can help us. But it’s not really hurting them to give him up.’
“And I hope that doesn’t get misconstrued as an insult to Ryan Murray because that’s not what I mean by it. I’m just saying he’s not one of their top D. So I think that’s kind of part of the problem, is they look at it and say, ‘Well we need more than that.’ “
Murray has another season left on his contract at a $2.85 million contract and will be eligible for arbitration next summer.
“Nashville is a really interesting one,” continued Friedman on the Duchene trade front. “I think they’ve asked Nashville for Ekholm. And Nashville doesn’t want to do that. If Colorado was going to make that trade, that’s a heck of a return. After watching Ekholm in the playoffs, holy cow is that guy a great player. Nashville doesn’t want to do that and not only that, but he’s signed to a great contract. So I think they’re just going to hold out here.”
The Predators have Ekholm locked down to a bargain six-year, $22.5 million contract, in which he’s entering Year Two. His cap hit is only $3.75 million, and his salary in the final season of that deal will be $5 million. Ekholm does not, incidentally, have any trade protection in that pact.
Friedman added one final point on a potential Duchene trade timeline:
“Now, Chris MacFarland – who is the right-hand man of Joe Sakic there in Colorado – he traded Rick Nash on July 23,” the Insider noted. “So he’s patient. He was with Scott Howson when they made that deal and it was July 23, and they waited until they got what they wanted. So I think that Colorado is going to follow the same path.”
Whether or not the description of Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic being perceived as ‘obstinate’ by some is actually accurate or not doesn’t really matter, but right or wrong the widely-held belief is that a Duchene trade has not yet materialized because of Colorado’s asking price.
So what exactly has that asking price been?
There have been two particularly notable tidbits on that front, as provided by a pair of TSN Insiders.
Darren Dreger this week noted Sakic’s asking price is “definitely the holdup,” and that “the ask depends on the team that Joe Sakic is negotiating with, or the team that has expressed interest. I’ve heard that it’s been as high as a couple of first-round picks, or at least a first-round pick and a former first-round draft pick who’s now a young NHL prospect, and then some and then some.”
Dreger indicated that he didn’t blame Sakic for a second, and that the GM was “holding on to a blue-chip asset.”
The most specific description of Sakic’s believed asking price came from Bob McKenzie in February, nearly a month before the trade deadline.
“Everybody knows the price of poker,” said McKenzie at the time. “That is either three high-end pieces or four high-end pieces. By high-end pieces we mean this:
“If it’s three high-end pieces, we’re talking about a player that’s established in the NHL already – between 20-24 years of age – as well as a first-round pick, as well as a top prospect.
“If the young NHL isn’t established, if it’s all prospects, then the price goes up to those four high-end pieces.”
Part of the issue, undoubtedly, for a team looking to deal for Duchene is that he only has two seasons left on that five-year, $30 million contract.
Yes, the cap hit is a manageable $6 million for those two campaigns. But the assets for which Sakic seems to be asking would be under Avalanche control a lot longer than Duchene would be for his new team, and said new team also wouldn’t be able to sign Duchene to an extension until next summer.
And so we wait.
Duchene, incidentally, does not have any trade protection in his contract.