As the summer drags on, Matt Duchene is still a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
Joe Sakic’s asking price has not yet been met, and it’s entirely possible that the 26-year-old forward will open training camp with the only National Hockey League for which he’s ever played.
Hockey Insider Darren Dreger broke away from his summer on Friday to join The Instigators on Buffalo’s WGR 550, who wanted to know about the possibility of Duchene being dealt to the Sabres.
“I can’t say Buffalo isn’t an option,” said Dreger. “I think that certainly Matt Duchene is willing to consider any option that is thrown his way.
“I know that CAA group pretty well. Pat Brisson, of course, is the lead agent for Matt Duchene in this. This guy is a deal maker. He’s a negotiator. I suspect that he’s not terrorizing Joe Sakic on a daily basis with text messages or phone calls, but he’s been persistent in his belief that the best outcome for both the Colorado Avalanche and for the client, Matt Duchene, is to get a deal done.
“Nobody wants to go through the awkwardness and potential ugliness of training camp opening and Matt Duchene perhaps not being there. I’m not suggesting that that is going to be the case, but sooner than later either Duchene or Pat Brisson or somebody from that side is going to step up and say, ‘Alright. Enough is enough. We’ve been really patient in this. We know that you expect and want a great return for Matt Duchene because he’s still a very, very good player in the National Hockey League. But it’s not going to be a good scene for anyone if he’s forced back into that dressing room.’
“Things are real strange around that Avalanche team and they have been for quite some time now. Joe Sakic is at some events, he’s not at other events in terms of following the young and developing players. He’s got an interesting management structure there.
“I was told the other day that Adam Foote has left the organization. Adam Foote was a player development guy, but highly respected. He was a guy that the management types of the Colorado Avalanche would lean on from time to time. Now, he’s got some focus elsewhere with his son Cal drafted high by the Tampa Bay Lightning. His younger son, Nolan, he’s going to be a high pick. Both are playing for the Kelowna Rockets this year. So there might be a level of distraction.
“But with a first-round pick being a defenseman and a high second-round pick being a defenseman, how do you allow Adam Foote to walk away from that organization.
“So there’s a lot of things that need to be corrected and perhaps straightened out in Colorado.”
The Avalanche drafted defensemen Cale Makar (fourth overall) and Conor Timmins (32nd overall) in June.
On the Duchene front, the forward is entering the fourth season of a five-year, $30 million cap hit.
Duchene does not have any trade protection in that pact, and his cap hit is $6 million.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman revisited the situation in mid-July on Toronto radio, and underscored the relevance of term in relation to the forward’s contract.
“I do think they want to trade Duchene,” said Friedman then of the Avalanche. “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.”
A lot has been made of Sakic’s apparently high ask for Duchene, so it’s worth revisiting what we may know on that front.
Dreger himself had outlined it in early July, affirming that the price is “definitely the holdup” on a trade.
“And the ask depends on the team that Joe Sakic is negotiating with, or the team that has expressed interest,” noted 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.”
That price may or may not seem high to you, but compare it to what colleague Bob McKenzie had outlined in early February – about 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.”
NHL training camps will open next month, and the first regular season game for the Colorado Avalanche will be October 5 on the road against the New York Rangers.
For whom Duchene will be playing at that time remains to be seen.