It’s mid-July, and Matt Duchene has not yet been traded by Joe Sakic.
The Colorado Avalanche general manager has an idea of what his star forward should be worth, and he apparently hasn’t yet received an offer worth accepting.
“I just think that Colorado has set a very high price and they’re not tempted to budge off it unless they get what they want,” noted NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman during a Thursday evening appearance on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590. “One of the things that I talked about today was that the Ryan O’Reilly deal didn’t turn out well for Colorado. Some of their fans really disagree with that. They feel that their prospects still have a chance, which is fine. But I think after that O’Reilly deal you have to be more certain about what you’re getting for Duchene if you’re going to make that trade.
“I do think they want to trade Duchene. I think Duchene needs a fresh start and would like a fresh start. But the fact is they’re sitting there and they’ve set a very high bar for a guy who has been a 30-goal scorer.
“I think one of the biggest issues is that if you take a look at some of the real interesting offense-for-defense trades in the last couple of years – there’s Drouin for Sergachev, Montreal-Tampa. There’s Jones-Johansen, Columbus and Nashville. And there’s Hall for Larsson, Edmonton-New Jersey.
“The thing is all of those players were under team control for some time. You really knew that you had the option to keep those guys. Duchene is only under contract for this year and next, and then he’s an unrestricted free agent. I know that concerned Carolina. The price is high, so you’re looking there and you’re saying, ‘We’re going to give up a young, controllable player or two in return, and there’s no guarantee we’re going to be able to keep Duchene long term.’ I think some teams are skittish about that.
“But I do think everyone took a timeout after July 1. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the contenders try again sometime in the summer.”
Duchene is entering the fourth season of his five-year, $30 million contract and the 26-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career upon its conclusion.
He does not have any trade protection in this contract, and Duchene will cost any acquiring team a $6 million cap hit.
There’s obviously some level of discrepancy between what Sakic thinks Duchene is worth on the trade market and what interested general managers perceive to be a reasonably affordable price, which sparks a legitimate debate about who and what Matt Duchene is as a player.
He was one of many on the Avalanche to disappoint last season, only managing a 41-point campaign. His prior three campaigns, beginning with 2013-14, had seen 70, 55 and 59-point efforts though.
The discussion with Friedman was steered toward the perception of Duchene around the league, including consistency issues.
“I think what it is is that you look at Matt Duchene if he’s the No. 1 star, you might not… I think people look at him as a complementary No. 2 as opposed to a No. 1 cornerstone,” considered Friedman. “If you’re going out and you’re bringing him to a team that’s got another good piece or two – I can understand why the Islanders want to bring him in behind Tavares. That, to me, is a perfect fit for Matt Duchene.
“I could see a team – I don’t know if they’re interested, but for example a team like L.A. that already has a Kopitar. That, to me, is a fit.”
Friedman was asked where Duchene would fit in Columbus, a team that has been heavily-rumored to be interested in the Colorado forward.
“In Columbus he’s probably – that kid Wennberg, I think at least you have a chance for both of them to be No. 1 guys.
“I think Pittsburgh is on the fringe of this. I think the Penguins have to do some other things in order to even have a chance, and I’m not really sure they have (the room to get there), but I think that Pittsburgh would be the kind of team… just like Kessel thrived there, I think a guy like Duchene would too.”
As Friedman alluded off the top, he covered the Duchene trade situation in his final 30 Thoughts of the season, which was released earlier in the day.
So the perception of a high asking price for Duchene is one thing, but what does that specifically mean?
TSN’s Darren Dreger addressed this subject last week, noting that the asking price for Duchene was “definitely the holdup” on the trade front.
“And the ask depends on the team that Joe Sakic is negotiating with, or the team that has expressed interest,” indicated Dreger. “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.
“And I don’t blame Joe Sakic for a second. Say what you want about Matt Duchene, but he can play in pretty much every team’s top-six and he is an impactful player. You look at his international resume – it’s sparkling. It’s not his fault that the Colorado Avalanche continue to fight their way through, and Sakic knows that. So he’s holding on to a blue-chip asset.
“Where it becomes problematic, though, is if it drifts into the late summer – which it looks like it might – and into training camp, and then into the regular season. Because this has been a distraction for Matt Duchene. It’s definitely been a distraction for the Colorado Avalanche in general. And I would have thought that management in Colorado would have appreciated that and done what they could to try and alleviate that distraction. They don’t need that as an organization going into another season.
“So there’s still time now. And let’s not lose sight of who represents Matt Duchene, and that’s Pat Brisson and CAA Sports. Arguably they are one of – if not the most – powerful agencies in the sport. So I don’t know that Pat Brisson is going to exert more pressure than he has already – he’s more respectful than that – but he’s a deal-maker.
“So I wouldn’t sign off on Matt Duchene coming back to the Colorado Avalanche just yet.”