November 5, 2017 | 10:50pm ET
TORONTO, ON -- The Matt Duchene Saga in Colorado has finally come to
an end. Bittersweet, but you can be certain the 26-year-old forward is
thrilled to put the last two years behind him and start the next
chapter of his NHL career with the Ottawa Senators.
And what great timing on my part, as Dennis Bernstein and I will be
flying over to Sweden on Tuesday to cover the two-game series in
Stockholm between the Senators and Avalanche at the Ericsson Globe.
By now I'm sure you've read numerous takes and analysis on the trade
that saw Duchene head to Ottawa, Kyle Turris end up in Nashville with
a six-year, $36 million contract extension, and three quality young
players, three high draft picks and goalie Andrew Hammond end up in
Colorado. For what it's worth, I like this move for all parties. The
Sens weren't going to commit to a long-term deal with Turris and
clearly feel Duchene is the better player. Nashville was in on Duchene
but really like Turris' two-way style and he will fit in nicely. And
full credit to Avs GM Joe Sakic for shutting us all up and getting the
high return he ultimately wanted, even though the pieces weren't
exactly what he initially requested.
But this isn't about Colorado trading Duchene. Not exactly, anyway.
This is about the Avalanche committing to its rebuild.
The Avs brought in two players who can play in the NHL now if needed
-- defenseman Samuel Girard, who picked up three points in five games
with the Preds this season, and left wing Vladislav Kamenev, who's in
his third season in the AHL and had a taste of NHL action playing in
two games with Nashville last season -- a highly-touted prospect in
Shane Bowers, picked 28th overall in this past summer's NHL Draft, and
three picks (a first-round draft pick and second-round draft pick in
2018, and a third-round pick in 2019) they can either hold on to or
use as currency for future trades.
This is a big win for Colorado from a rebuilding standpoint.
No, Sakic didn't acquire a more-proven NHL caliber defenseman, but a
lot of people around the League like what Girard brings to the table
as a mobile blueliner. Kamenev and Bowers are both highly-talented
offensive-minded forwards, one obviously ahead of the other, and they
fit into Colorado's future game plan. Now, the Avs can move forward.
The thing about all the Duchene trade chatter is that it took the
spotlight away from speculation surrounding the futures of Tyson
Barrie, Gabe Landeskog, Erik Johnson and Carl Soderberg. All four
popped up in trade discussions dating back to last season -- some
league execs believe Barrie was almost dealt this past summer -- and
you've got to wonder what's next on Sakic's to-do list.
With the Avs heading to Sweden, it's highly unlikely anything happens
this week or the near future. In fact, Sakic will likely take a step
back and dissect how the rest of his roster shapes up. He's in no rush
to move some of his other top-end players, clearly, and it doesn't
seem like he's overly interested in trading someone like Barrie or
Johnson for draft picks and prospects, especially now.
But teams will be calling and Sakic will be listening.
Colorado's objective is long-term. A number of teams, including the
Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, inquired about Barrie in
the past, while teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins
expressed interest in Landeskog last season. With the rebuild sign
posted in Colorado, do these teams, and others, revisit talks? It's
Barrie's red hot to start the season, picking up 14 points in as many
games. His price tag is probably higher now than its ever been.
Landeskog's price tag hasn't changed, but it's up there, as well. And
we all know how patient Sakic truly is willing to be. Granted, neither
player's situation comes close to what Duchene's was like and Sakic's
desire to move either guy isn't motivated.
With both Barrie and Landeskog performing well to start 2017-18,
Nathan MacKinnon back on track, it would appear, and youngsters like
Mikko Rantanen and Alex Kerfoot locking down their spots on the roster
-- Rantanen did so last season and Tyson Jost hopes to join him and
Kerfoot this season after he returns from injury -- the Avs like what
they're seeing. But they're willing to explore options when it comes
to some of their older athletes.
For now, Sakic and the Avs will enjoy the week in Stockholm. The big
Duchene distraction is gone and everyone can move on -- until the
trade winds pick up again later in the season. At least by then
they'll know how to handle it.
BLUE OVER TRADE
Forgotten in the mushroom cloud created by Duchene/Turris three-way
trade are the Columbus Blue Jackets, the other team hot for a top-two
The Blue Jackets were in pursuit of Duchene last season and over the
summer, but obviously weren't biting at the asking price. Neither were
the Carolina Hurricanes, for that matter. But Columbus has been
looking around the NHL for a center capable of playing on its top line
and now two players they had discussed are off the market.
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was actually at Colorado's game
tonight in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders when the three-way
blockbuster went down. Columbus plays the New York Rangers tomorrow,
so Kekalainen's attendance was a matter of convenience, but I know it
caught his interest.
Where can the Blue Jackets go from here? They may have to be creative.
It has been widely reported that defenseman Ryan Murray is available
and the Jackets are willing to package him up in a deal for a top-two
center. Depending on what that package includes, it might not be
enough -- it wasn't enough for Duchene.
The market isn't overly deep, right now. Kekalainen is likely going to
wait until later in the season to try to pluck a first- or second-line
center away from a bottom-feeder, but the fact that he's willing to
swap out talent-for-talent could make a move more intriguing for teams
who don't have pending rental centers to give away for picks and
Would a team like the Maple Leafs, with Tyler Bozak potentially
available, have interest in Murray? Bozak is in the final
year of his deal and he'd probably need to be signed to a contract
extension if the Leafs wanted a player like Murray coming back their
way. But Toronto's depth up front and desperate need to shore up its
blueline could make the stars align.
What about the Edmonton Oilers? They're going to need to clear up
salary cap space for next season and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (and his $6
million salary cap hit, same as Duchene's and Turris' thanks to his
new deal) is Edmonton's most attractive, movable asset. I'm sure
Columbus is interested, but that's likely a summer trade, anyway, and
won't help them this season.
Other than those two options, Columbus will have to kick some tires
and see what else pops up. These types of centermen aren't available
David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of
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