Joe Sakic has still not found a Matt Duchene trade to his liking, and that proverbial clock is ticking if he wants to get a deal done.
“The pressure’s on Joe and the Avalanche,” said NHL Insider Bob McKenzie during a Monday afternoon appearance on Toronto’s TSN 1050. “They weren’t a good team last year. The thing is spiralling in the wrong direction. I understand that you have to get market value, and the player is still under contract for another two years, but there’s also a point in time where the rumors become so plentiful and the uncertainty becomes so great that a player like Matt Duchene virtually checks out.
“In other words, is he still of the mindset that he wants or is going to be a productive member of the Colorado Avalanche, or is he already in his own mind moved on – even though he hasn’t been moved.
“I’ve got to think that one’s going to start to become an uncomfortable situation. Because Duchene knows what the goal here is for the Avalanche. The goal here for the Avalanche is to try to parlay him, a little bit of an older player – not old by any stretch, but relatively speaking – into a younger asset. You don’t want to call it a rebuild, because they’ve already been through a couple of those, but there’s no question that there’s some more pain ahead for the Colorado Avalanche.
“For a guy like Matt Duchene, who has been in the league as long as he has been, I’m sure he wants to win. So he hasn’t formally asked for a trade, but I think like everybody else he’s probably expecting one, and maybe even hoping for one at this point.
“And I understand where Joe and the Avs are coming from, but I mean a lot of the teams I talk to say, ‘We’ve made offers and the Avalanche are overvaluing this asset given that he’s two years away from unrestricted free agency.’ “
Craig Button was part of the hosting panel on Leafs Lunch for this TSN 1050 discussion, and wanted to know if the Avalanche is at a stage similar to the Leafs’ recently, where the organization had to let the fan base know to expect the coming painful process.
“I guess so, but what’s really hard about doing that Craig is haven’t they already done that?” replied McKenzie. “I mean, the fact that they got Duchene, the fact that they got Landeskog, the fact that they got Nathan MacKinnon. These guys have had first picks and third picks and fourth picks and they went through that pain and suffering and yet they weren’t able to turn that corner the first time until it’s like…
“But you’re right, I think they probably do to some degree. But boy that’s tough. And especially when you had Ryan O’Reilly and you traded him. You had Stastny coming into free agency and you weren’t able to sign him. And you don’t really have much of anything to show for the Ryan O’Reilly trade.
“So those things set organizations back years and years. That’s kind of, unfortunately, the reality for the Avs right now.”
The franchise is coming off a 2016-17 campaign in which it finished dead-last in the National Hockey League, earning only 48 points with a 22-56-4 mark.
Sakic, for his part, had this to say to BSN Denver’s AJ Haefele about Duchene over the weekend:
“We’re open to ways to improve our club but there’s nothing to talk about really,” indicated the general manager. “Matt’s a great hockey player. Why wouldn’t you want him on our team? We need to add skill and speed to our lineup. When it comes to bringing in a younger guy, we’re deciding on the direction to go. Are we there yet? We’re building to get there. That’s not an overnight thing but we love the younger guys we do have.”
What sort of price is Sakic seeking on a Duchene trade front?
Newsday’s Arthur Staple reported that New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow had offered Sakic a package including Travis Hamonic and the Islanders’ first-round pick in 2018, but the Avalanche declined the proposal.
The Islanders and Calgary Flames wound up completing a Hamonic trade, with Snow picking up a 2018 first-rounder and a pair of second-rounders.
Snow freed up some cap space in the trade, and now also has the option of either drafting players with those picks or turning them into another offensive asset to help the team’s efforts to keep John Tavares with the franchise long term. Tavares will be eligible to sign a contract extension as early as July 1.
Sakic’s specific asking price for Duchene will vary from team to team, naturally, but it’s worth keeping in mind the desired framework for any potential deal that McKenzie provided before the trade deadline.
This isn’t necessarily the current ask, but McKenzie described his belief of the price at that time in early February.
“Either three high-end pieces or four high-end pieces,” noted the preeminent NHL Insider. “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 player isn’t established, if it’s all prospects, then the price goes up to those four high-end pieces.”
Duchene can become an unrestricted free agent in two years, and his contract comes with a $6 million cap hit.
The 26-year-old forward does not have any trade protection in that pact.