Your weekly dose of hockey-related banter and chitchat
Welcome to Where the Puck Drops, a weekly-or-more-often-run column in which I cover some of the hot topics around the world of hockey, plus some historical issues, random questions, and other tidbits linked to the sport of the puck, the sticks, and the goalie masks. This week we have a special edition of WTPD focused solely on Matt Duchene’s trade.
Breaking Down Duchene’s Trade
No one thought this moment would arrive. Really. I know no one in his right mind that actually believed Matt Duchene would actually wear any other jersey not that of the Colorado Avalanche. How much time has this saga taken? How many days since the rumors started floating around, getting more and more traction but never seeming to end in anything concrete? We heard about Pittsburgh. We heard about Nashville. Heck, I didn’t even rule out Vegas appearing in some of those stupid and nonsensical Duchene-to-wherever stories. But here we are. We have a deal! Confirmed! I can’t still believe this is real, and that is why I want to write this as soon as today before we actually realize it was all a dream and Duchene is still stuck in some highway around Denver.
As if trading Duchene wasn’t interesting enough — it contains pieces of Duchene, Sakic, an ultra-losing team in Colorado, rumors that expand years long, etc. — the transaction took place with the season barely started and took three teams to be completed. Colorado found partners in Ottawa and Nashville in order to have this negotiation done, which is something not really common in the NHL. Who knows if it will become the usual trade-structure in the near future.
Sakic told reporters asking about his ideas of a potential Duchene trade over and over and the Avs’ legend always had the same response to share. Something like, “We’ll wait for the best deal and offer to appear, we are in no rush to trade Matt.” And somehow, it worked. The Avalanche were able to hold onto Duchene until moments before their game against the Islanders, which they lost after winning three in a row. Ottawa and Nashville facilitated the move that saw the Haliburton, Ontario native finally move places.
And oh boy was it a blockbuster. Up to nine pieces were traded, so we better go one by one in order to make it easier for you to know what ultimately happened. This is not difficult. I’m going to discuss each of the players and picks traded one by one, starting with the seemingly less important until reaching the cherry on top of the cake, which yes, is Matt Duchene. Let’s do it.
Colorado receives: Ottawa’s 2019 3rd Round Pick
I know nothing about this asset. It is an asset, that I know. A 3rd round is not bad to have in a draft that expands to seven rounds and which over 200 players are selected every year. The worst 3rd round pick is not even halfway there, so there is that. But this pick is fun. Sakic is cool because he got a pick at a position where you can start gambling a little. Colorado needs young players and prospects. At this position, they will be able to go for some not-so-known guy from Europe if they want to without much criticism. They will be able to gamble on a random goalie. They could potentially go in any direction, and that is perfect.
Colorado receives: Nashville’s 2018 2nd Round Pick
This is better than that 3rd rounder but not much better actually. Nashville is one of the top teams in the NHL, or at least that is what we think they are and where they are expected to be at the end of the season. They will be a playoff team and probably fight for the Stanley Cup again this season after falling short of winning it last year. This pick is not going to be near the 30th position, that’s for sure. But a 2nd rounder, even the lowest, means you’re picking probably no further than 60, meaning there may still be some steals to get at that position. Patrice Bergeron and Jason Pominville are some present-day examples of 2nd-round beauties, just leaving that there.
Colorado receives: Ottawa’s 2018 1st Round Pick
One thing is clear here. If you make a trade like this and receive the best piece of the whole deal, especially if that player is named Matt Duchene, you’re definitely in for the season and a deep playoff run. This is what Ottawa should be aiming for, and probably where they’re actually going to end. It would make no sense if they didn’t reach that position, so we can consider this pick a lock to be in the 15-to-30 range, which is not bad at all considering Colorado’s own pick would probably end being a top five, if not better.
The upcoming draft looks deep enough for the Avs not only to pick a top-tier prospect with their first selection (Rasmus Dahlin or bust!) but also to add someone quite interesting. In the past 17 drafts, 255 players have been selected between the 15th and 30th slots. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Zach Parise, or Claude Giroux, among others, belong to the group. Of course, I’m cherrypicking names here, but hey, the talent is out there to be grabbed. You may not be drafting someone to contribute from day one but the foundation for years to come. Colorado will have a great chance at selecting a stud early and a potential beast not much later. They have a history of developing players. This could end being the best asset they’ve received in the whole deal by far.
Colorado receives: Shane Bowers and Andrew Hammond (from Ottawa)
Shane Bowers is just a kid. Honestly, he was born in 1999 and selected this past summer by Ottawa with the 27th pick of the 2017 entry draft. He’s still a little far from making the NHL, so we may be better considering him just another 1st rounder in the whole package Colorado has received, which certainly makes his inclusion look pretty nice. This guy has been scoring in bunches during all of his early years so there is nothing there to expect he will flop and not have something to give to the Avs once he reaches the professional competition.
The case of Hammond is more interesting. More interesting in that he’s a 29-year old goalie that could step into the starting position if needed, something not happening right now or in the near future. Hammond will probably be reassigned somewhere else and well, that’s basically the story.
Colorado receives: Samuel Girard and Vladislav Kamenev (from Nashville)
Samuel Girard is a left-handed defender. He’s a 47th draft pick from the 2016 class and he has just played five games for Nashville this season. We don’t know much about him except that those five games make him the 15th rookie from 2016 with the highest numbers of games played out of 211 selections. If you don’t know how the NHL works, it is something like this:
- You get drafted.
- You get evaluated.
- If you’re a top-two pick you probably, just probably, make the NHL roster.
- If you’re not a top-two pick, you probably spend two or three years in the “minor leagues” of ice hockey waiting for your turn.
Being a part of an NHL team just one year after being drafted is no small feat. Girard looks promising and Colorado is getting a much needed D-man on him.
Kamenev, on the other hand, had not played a minute this season for Nashville. He did appear in two games during last season after being drafted in 2014, also in the second round (42nd pick). We’re talking about a 21-year old guy here. Age is not a problem. Development is there. Kamenev is Russian but he’s been playing in North American leagues for quite some time now. He looks interesting judging by his eight points in 10 games so far in the AHL this season. Another plus addition for the future group of Colorado’s forwards.
Nashville receives: Kyle Turris (from Ottawa)
Nashville is going for it. Going for it big time. Kyle Turris is not the best center you can dress in the NHL, sure, but he’s an improvement over Bonino. Bonino was signed this summer when he pulled a reverse-Durant move leaving the champion-Pens to wear the loser-Preds’ blue. The problem with Bonino and Nashville was that he was slotted in the second line for the start of the season, something that didn’t make much sense and needed to be solved. The Predators love Duchene, and have loved him and tried to get him for quite some time, but ultimately they couldn’t get the best of the deal. Instead they got away with poor’s man Duchene in Kyle Turris, from Ottawa.
Matt Duchene is almost 27 years old while Kyle Turris is 28. Both were 3rd-overall picks in their drafts. Duchene has more career-points while Turris has posted better possession numbers. This season, Matt has scored 10 points in six games while Kyle has nine in 11. They’re not the same, but at the end of the day their production is not that different. As a consolation prize, Turris is nothing sort of a steal for Nashville here.
The Preds may have been left out of the deal and it may not have affected the transaction that much. They opted to facilitate it by throwing in a couple of not-yet-ready players and a pick because it’s a now-or-never — okay, maybe not so critical — situation for them in terms of winning the Stanley Cup. This a present day move. Forget about prospects and promises, focus on today. Nashville wants to put their hands on the cup, something they were able to smell so closely last season that they don’t want to forget the feeling, but rather amplify it. And having Turris will definitely help.
Ottawa receives: Matt Duchene (from Colorado)
Finally, Ottawa. As Nashville, they received just one piece out of the nine moved. But hey, what an asset that is. The Senators have acquired a long-disgusted player in Duchene. Now Ottawa boast a roster that contains two bonafide stars, one on defense with Karlsson and another one on offense with Duchene. You may think that they gave up too much to get him; you may be right. The negotiations with Turris, however, were going nowhere and they were going to lose him. Instead of losing him, flip him and some filler (what a filler, though) to get one more year of security with Matt Duchene and his deal while improving the roster for this season and next one.
It is probable that Duchene starts as the second-line center for the Senators under Brassard, but he will end the season as a first-liner; I have not a single doubt about it. Duchene has the name and the numbers to back him up. He will keep his production up and even improve it. He comes from a putrid team where he didn’t even want to play. He’s changing the scenario. He’s moving north of the border to play for maybe not the most fan-friendly team in the world, but a contender that will give him playoff vibes in a few months time. Duchene finally has a chance to compete for something. Ottawa was one goal short of making the Stanley Cup final last year. Duchene could have put the puck in had he been there. Senators’ fans are already envisioning this happening come June.
But hey, circling back to the start of this column, keep in mind what Colorado was able to do with this trade. They had a rotten apple in their tree. Not that it was poisoning the rest of the fruit too much, but a rotten apple nonetheless. Duchene was going to leave sooner or later. He was a lost case. Yet Sakic, somehow and against all odds, defeated us all and got seven pieces for one from two teams. This trade won’t probably help Jared Bernard’s task as the Avs coach now, but it will make the job easier for whoever comes next. Colorado needs to look ahead. Colorado needs young players, picks, development, and patience. And they’re getting and showing all of it. The Avs, believe it or not, may be back sooner rather than later.