NOVEMBER 5, 2017 | 10:50PM ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period
WHAT'S NEXT FOR COLORADO?
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 -- defenceman 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 defenceman, 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 entirely possible.
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 centre.
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 prospects.
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 centremen aren't available too often.