Reassessing the Matt Duchene-Kyle Turris blockbuster

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Kyle Turris returned to Ottawa Monday, which meant two things:

1. The Capital City Condors hockey team, comprised of developmentally challenged youth, would be out in full force to see their former honourary captain.

2. The opportunity would arise to update the blockbuster three-way trade a little more than a year ago, which sent Turris from the Senators to Nashville and Matt Duchene to Ottawa from Colorado.

Unfortunately, Duchene is still recovering from a groin injury suffered Dec. 6 against the Montreal Canadiens and could not face Turris and the Preds for a second time in the past week. Duchene did skate with his teammates on Monday and could be in the lineup as early as Friday, when Ottawa visits New Jersey. Turris himself just returned from a nagging injury that kept him out of the Predators’ lineup from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12.

There was a time when teams made “hockey trades” that involved just players, not contracts or expiring contracts, picks or prospects. Those trades were easy to assess based on the performance of the players involved.

Modern trades can take years to assess, while the fine details of the transactions take shape. The Duchene/Turris swap is one of those that will shake out permutations for years to come as draft picks are made, prospects flourish or flop and the Senators either sign Duchene to a fat, long-term deal or trade him for futures.

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The three-way trade on Nov. 5, 2017 broke down this way: Ottawa received from the Colorado Avalanche centre Matt Duchene, while Nashville got Turris. In addition, the Avalanche received from the Senators a conditional first-round pick (which evolved to be Ottawa’s first-round pick in 2019), a 2019 third-round pick, plus prospect Shane Bowers and goaltender Andrew Hammond. The Avs also got a 2018 second-round pick from Nashville along with defenceman Samuel Girard and centre Vladislav Kamenev.

While they gave up a lot to get him, including their 2019 first-round pick without imagining they would so quickly be in rebuild mode, the Senators have been thrilled with Duchene’s play. Although he needed some time to settle in (and stop hitting goal posts), Duchene finished 2017-18 strong and has been better than a point-per-game player this season (12-22-34 in 29 games) as a pending unrestricted free agent.

Before the game against Nashville, Senators head coach Guy Boucher was lamenting the loss of Duchene in his lineup (Ottawa is 2-2-1 in his absence).

“You’re missing your top centre, he’s more than a point-per-game guy,” Boucher said. “You’re not expecting to score as many goals and have to try to play tighter games.”

Boucher said there is a “trickle effect” to losing a player like Duchene. You lose not just his production, but also allow opponents to zero in on Mark Stone’s line, especially on the road, where the Sens don’t have last change.

“It’s not just points, there’s momentum (from Duchene’s line), more offensive zones,” said Boucher. “There’s a trickle effect.”

Senators general manager Pierre Dorion has made it clear he plans to sign Duchene, 27, to a long-term deal. If and when he does, the trade can be further reassessed. Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick toward Duchene’s free agency. Duchene has said repeatedly that he loves it in Ottawa, but he has also said he wants to be on a contending team after years of losing in Colorado. The Senators won’t be a playoff team this season, but are hoping to rebuild around Duchene, Stone and defenceman Thomas Chabot.

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Turris, 29, just returned to play in Nashville’s past two games, against Vancouver and New Jersey. He recorded an assist and played 17:07 in the overtime win over the Canucks. In 25 games, Turris has 17 points.

“It takes a bit of time to get the rust off and get back into the rhythm,” Turris said, while standing in his bare feet for a hallway scrum with familiar Ottawa media. “You have to get your timing back, I’m just trying to do that. Tonight I will have lots of energy, be excited.”

Few teams have been hit as hard with injuries as Nashville, still missing star forwards Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidson and defenceman P.K. Subban. There is no timetable on their returns. The Predators’ depth has managed to weather the storm, as they remain second in the Western Conference with 45 points off a 22-10-1 record.

“It’s great to have (Turris) back in the lineup,” said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette. “He provides some balance on our lines.

“When you remove pieces throughout your lineup and are looking to replace those pieces, and are looking in different directions, having him back in there really just stabilizes all the lines.”

When healthy, the Predators are a Stanley Cup contender and Turris provides important centre depth behind Ryan Johansen.



Duchene must feel a bit like his former Colorado teammate Ryan O’Reilly, who left the struggling Buffalo Sabres in a trade with St. Louis only to see the Sabres reborn with Jeff Skinner and added depth in their lineup. A similar thing happened with Duchene, the Avs and the Senators. At the time of the trade, Colorado was a rebuilding club while the Senators were coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference final. Now, Colorado has a powerhouse top line of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog and sit third in the Central Division with 42 points. And it’s Ottawa that is in future mode.

Girard, acquired from Nashville, has been a steadying influence on the Avs blue line, playing 20-plus minutes per game on the top pair alongside Erik Johnson. Rookie Kamenev shows potential. That second-round pick from Nashville was later flipped to Pittsburgh for a third- and a fifth-round selection, used to draft Finnish goaltender Justus Annunen and Russian defenceman Danila Zhuravlyov.

Centre Shane Bowers, acquired by Colorado from Ottawa in the deal, will represent Canada in the upcoming World Junior Championship. The 19-year-old from Halifax has five goals and eight points in 15 games for Boston University this fall. Bowers was drafted 28th overall by the Senators in 2017.

Goaltender Hammond, the erstwhile Hamburglar, signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Wild and has been steady with the AHL Iowa Wild.

The old saying in hockey is that the team that got the best player won the trade. But while Ottawa and Nashville received the big name players in the Turris/Duchene trade, Colorado quietly made significant additions to its roster in moves that should continue to pay dividends down the road.

Nashville will have more to say if the Preds can win a Cup.

Ottawa’s Dorion hopes his next big announcement has something to do with a Duchene extension.

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