Some big names in the NHL have already begun to swirl in the rumor circle: Ryan Johansen, Patrick Marleau, and now Matt Duchene.
While it’s fun to guess the landing spots when everything’s up in the air, the Colorado Avalanche are trying not to let this kind of talk distract them.
The Avalanche are toiling again near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, sit last in the merciless Central Division and some feel that Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy will not watch idly as their team flounders.
Duchene has been a good soldier in Colorado, initially signing an affordable bridge deal after his entry level contract expired and then agreeing to what some would call a hometown discount with his latest. He currently has three years left on a contract that pays him $6 million per season.
Just for kicks, here are five possible trade destinations for the Avs’ centreman.
This comes as a surprise even to this author but there’s one way in which this could work. The Habs just recently signed centre Tomas Plekanec to a two-year extension worth the same $6 million that Duchene makes. Both the player and the team were under no illusions about what the contract without a no-movement clause meant. It was a reward for good stewardship and play but lacked long-term commitment. Marc Bergevin and Co. are clearly all-in for a Stanley Cup this season, but neither Plekanec nor Duchene are proven playoff performers.
Of note, Montreal has eight defencemen signed to pro contracts.
Word is that the Sens have already kicked tires on a potential deal for Duchene. They have the cap space but they also have three young, talented centres in Kyle Turris, Mika Zibanejad and Curtis Lazar. GM Bryan Murray has said that he hopes Zibanejad will eventually take hold of the number one spot but that has yet to materialize. Lazar is on an affordable entry-level deal and could benefit from being protected a while longer further down the lineup.
Turris, meanwhile, is a great example of how Ottawa has taken a player whose previous situation soured only to turn it around in a new environment.
Change is afoot in Ohio, and as mentioned above, Ryan Johansen’s security in Columbus is questionable after a poor start and a possible rift between him and new head coach John Tortorella. Add to that the fact that Johansen missed the beginning of last season due to strained contract negotiations and the time seems just right. The Jackets have seven defencemen under contract and could also unload Ryan Murray — who was scheduled to be a healthy scratch Friday before an injury to Brandon Dubinsky changed that — if we want to talk mega-deal.
Cap space and extra defencemen. Always a forward away from reaching the top of the Central Division mountain. Duchene’s best bud is Cody Hodgson.
There are a number of good reasons why this destination would make sense. Except of course that these two teams are in the same division. But the Preds have a glut of players set be restricted free agents deserving of large raises. Throw in Mike Ribeiro or Ryan Ellis (who can be replaced by a soon-to-be-rich Seth Jones) and the top line in Nashville, with Filip Forsberg and James Neal, starts to rival any other top line in the league.
There may just be something to these Devils.
A team most expected to dwell near the bottom of the 2015-16 standings, New Jersey has surprised many by starting with a 9-6-1 record while scoring 40 goals with limited offensive talent. New GM Ray Shero may be looking to make his mark on this organization with a key piece for the present and future without many ties to the players already signed there.
Giving up on centres Pavel Zacha or Adam Henrique might be too much to imagine, but when a (hypothetical) opportunity to take a leap and snatch a potential game-changer like Duchene comes around, it’s tough to pass up — and Shero knows a thing (87) or two (71) about game-changers.