Joe Sakic waited and waited.
And when Matt Duchene reached his absolute wit’s end, Sakic waited some more.
It almost became a running gag – when the Colorado Avalanche general manager moves his unhappy forward, if he ever finds this mythical deal worth making – could it possibly be worth all the trouble?
In a word – yes.
Sakic recouped a haul of assets for parting with the former third overall pick: Defenceman Samuel Girard, forward Vladislav Kamenev, goaltender Andrew Hammond, prospect Shane Bowers, a conditional 2018 first-round pick, a 2018 second-rounder and a 2019 third-rounder.
All it took was nearly a year’s worth of negotiations to bring together.
“We wanted to make sure we had the right deal,” Sakic told reporters after Duchene was pulled from the ice during Sunday’s Islanders-Avalanche game.
The transaction grew so complicated that Colorado had no control over the final piece to fall in place. Kyle Turris had to negotiate and agree on a $36-million, six-year extension with the Predators before the three-team trade with Ottawa could officially be registered with the NHL.
That brought about relief for Duchene, who first requested a trade last December. He grew up idolizing the Avs but felt a change of scenery was needed after more than 500 games with the organization. When the weeks stretched into months, he wondered if it would ever come.
At various points over the summer he thought he might be headed to Nashville or Columbus. Ottawa had been a strong possibility all along, but even that appeared in doubt when talks on the three-way deal hit a snag late Friday night.
Duchene played in Colorado’s win over Philadelphia on Saturday and saw a little less than two minutes of ice time in the first period at Barclays Center before getting removed from the game. The deal was finally done.
“I saw them talking on the bench,” he told reporters. “It was very strange, but I half-expected it to be the weirdest way possible. It’s one of those things. It’s a business and I’ll have a good story for people one day.”
The Senators see him as a significant upgrade over Turris. He’s 16 months younger, more productive (.73 vs. .59 points per game) and brings a key element – speed – that the team lacks.
Duchene has also been the NHL’s best faceoff man since the start of the 2015-16 season with a 60.3 per cent winning percentage over more than 2,000 draws taken.
The fact he’s the best player in the deal is reflected in Ottawa’s acquisition cost: Turris, the 2018 first-rounder (which is lottery protected if it falls inside the top-10), the 2019 third-rounder and Bowers, the 28th overall selection this past June. Hammond was included to help balance the salary in and out.
After falling one goal short of reaching the Stanley Cup Final in the spring, the Senators have established a clear window of opportunity that covers this season and next. Beyond that lies the summer of 2019, when Erik Karlsson, Duchene and Derick Brassard are all due to become unrestricted free agents.
Turris was set to hit the open market this summer and wasn’t going to get the kind of financial commitment from Ottawa he ended up landing in Nashville. Unwilling to lose him for nothing, the Sens had been shopping the 28-year-old around to other teams since September.
Predators get better too
He’s an ideal fit for a Predators organization trying to chase down a championship of its own.
They’ve been looking for more strength down the middle since dropping a six-game Stanley Cup final to Pittsburgh and losing Mike Fisher to retirement. The Preds expressed interest in Duchene over the summer, but were unwilling to part with a piece off their current blue-line to get a deal done directly with Colorado.
Packaging a 2018 second-rounder with Kamenev and Girard – a promising 19-year-old who will step straight into Colorado’s lineup – made more sense for a team in win-now mode.
As for the Avalanche, the process of moving forward from last year’s unsightly 48-point season continues. They’re off to a strong start at 8-6-0 and will immediately face Duchene as an opponent with a pair of games against Ottawa in Stockholm later this week.
Not only have they removed the cloud hanging over the dressing room, but the cupboard is suddenly a little less bare. Consider the six picks and prospects added as more tickets in the lottery.
“We’re building and want to keep building with youth,” said Sakic. “We feel like we accomplished that.”
Yes, it’s a trade that makes sense for everyone.
After taking this long to come together, it had to be.