Matt Duchene handling Avalanche trade rumours like a pro

Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman talks about the situation in Colorado involving Matt Duchene and his contract with the Avalanche.

TORONTO — The most interesting thing about Matt Duchene‘s name being included in a trade rumour isn’t that rival teams have shown interest in prying him from the Colorado Avalanche.

It’s the way the 24-year-old forward has handled being blind-sided by the news, especially since it came at a time when the Avs were travelling through some of the NHL’s fiercest media markets.

Duchene concedes that the reports impacted him — “Maybe for a day I thought about it” — but he didn’t let it halt his ascent out of an early-season swoon. Instead, he put up three more points during a victory in Montreal on Saturday night.

There was a time when he would have been rattled by a stretch like this one. Before the rumours emerged he went through a flabbergasting opening 10 games with just one goal and one assist, and then found himself shifted from centre to right wing.

Yet, despite it all, he appeared no worse for wear ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I don’t think there’s a year where I would have been able to handle it like this year, just maturing as a player and as a professional,” Duchene said Monday at Air Canada Centre. “Just understanding that it’s part of the game. I’ve been through [dry spells] a lot and I didn’t panic, I just tried to stay with it and just worked hard every day, and fortunately it turned around.”

Even high achievers like Duchene have to learn to stick with the process. Playing through trade speculation is something entirely different.

He’s basically got the organization tattooed on his heart — cheering for the Avs as a kid, getting drafted third overall by them in 2009 and signing a long-term deal to stay in Denver through 2018-19.

Last week’s news caught him off-guard, and Duchene believes he knows where the rumours came from.

“I have a pretty good suspicion,” he said. “I’m not sure why they came that way and I’m very kind of surprised.”

His name was certainly part of some discussions this season, league sources told Sportsnet, and after a rocky start it’s no mystery why the Avalanche would consider making changes.

They still sit at 7-9-1 despite currently riding a three-game win streak and Duchene’s recent performance underlines just how valuable of an asset he is.

He’s a speedy point producer who is two-thirds of the way to joining the Triple Gold Club — he won Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2014 and World Championship gold last May — and remains in the prime of his career.

What NHL team wouldn’t covet someone with a resume like that?

With some order now being restored around the Avalanche the speculation is bound to die down. But coach Patrick Roy doesn’t think it’s an issue for players either way.

“It never really bothered me,” he said. “First of all when you have a bad year — like I had a bad year [with Montreal] in ’93 — you know it’s a part of it. You try not focusing on this, you try at the same time to play your game, and that’s what you want.

“The rumours are rumours; you’ve got no control over that.”

What Duchene does control is his play and he arrived in Toronto with 12 points to show for the last seven games. He’s finding his stride while playing a “hybrid” wing position — taking some faceoffs in place of centre Nathan MacKinnon — and seemed at ease when asked about the possibility of getting traded.

Duchene spoke with Avalanche GM Joe Sakic about the rumours over the weekend, but wouldn’t divulge how the conversation went.

“I’m not really going to talk about that — just that’s personal stuff,” he said. “But I’m comfortable with where I’m at as an Av right now.”

Spoken like a true pro.

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