While the laborious wait continues on the Matt Duchene trade front, we tend to hear the same names of teams circling around the Colorado Avalanche as potential suitors.
As things stood on Tuesday afternoon, it didn’t seem as if the Canadiens were currently involved in these particular sweepstakes though.
“When I deal with Montreal sources, I keep hearing that they’re not in on Matt Duchene,” indicated NHL Insider Darren Dreger during a Tuesday afternoon appearance on Vancouver’s TSN 1040, while also offering a qualification to that note. “But again, I always take that kind of intel coming out of Montreal with a bit of a grain of salt because what was it when P.K. Subban was traded – Marc Bergevin came out publically and said, ‘No, I’m not trading him.’ And days later, P.K. Subban gets dealt to the Nashville Predators.
“Now stuff happens, as they say, and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in that sense. If they don’t start scoring some goals with some level of consistency, then I don’t know how they can’t express some interest in Matt Duchene.
“Or we talked about the Vegas Golden Knights – what about James Neal? He’s going to be a pending unrestricted free agent. His name, to some degree, is out there. Not that they’re shopping him, but why wouldn’t you want to trade James Neal to try and get something sweet back before the February 26 trade deadline. If he’s a roaring success in Vegas, then sign him back as an unrestricted free agent.
“So maybe that’s another name Montreal checks out.”
A few weeks ago, during an appearance on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590, Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee said of Neal that “we’ll see how the year goes, whether we want to extend him or whether he’s playing for a contract for someone else… ”
Neal is in the final season of his six-year, $30 million contract and he has a modified no-trade clause through which he can list eight teams to which he cannot be dealt.
The 30-year-old winger, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, counts as both as $5 million cap hit and is paid out the same in salary.
In terms of Duchene and teams potentially still in the mix, Elliotte Friedman offered this last week:
“I don’t know if there’s anything pressing right now,” said Friedman on Friday of last week. “I think there’s a group of teams that are kind of around him. I think Nashville is. I think Columbus definitely is. I think Pittsburgh is. I think Calgary is. I still wonder if the Islanders are kind of around there. Ottawa has said that they’ve been interested. I still think all of those teams are circling.”
The Canadiens would no doubt still have interest in Duchene, but they may not have the specific assets – specifically a higher-end, quality young defenseman – Joe Sakic seeks in exchange.
This still seemingly leaves the Montreal franchise short in the offensive department, which could continue to turn up the proverbial heat on Bergevin’s seat.
Dreger was pressed for his sense of that specific situation during Tuesday’s radio hit in Vancouver.
“There’s got to be some pressure, but do I have any sense he’s going to potentially be replaced in-season? I don’t. I don’t,” said the Insider of Bergevin. “We know that when general managers are let go, usually it’s because there is a direct disagreement with ownership. Something happens, either a swap of email/text messages or a face-to-face that goes wrong. There isn’t an owner in the National Hockey League that doesn’t have a strong opinion, both on the business side of things and on the hockey side of things.
“But I don’t feel like that’s how Geoff Molson rolls. I think that Bergevin still has the support of Geoff Molson, Michael Andlauer and ownership of the Montreal Canadiens. If things were to go horribly bad, obviously they’d have to consider just about everything between now and then whenever ‘then’ is. If it’s at the end of the season, then absolutely I think that they would consider replacing him.”
Duchene, incidentally, has collected one goal and two assists in Colorado’s first three outings.
The versatile 26-year-old forward has this season and next remaining on his five-year, $30 million contract and he does not have any trade protection in that pact.