Huge if True: Assessing the queue for Matt Duchene

TORONTO, ON – DECEMBER 11: Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 11, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Avalanche defeated the Maple Leafs 3-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

At this point it’s beginning to feel as though there have only ever been trade rumors about Matt Duchene.

Matt Duchene, everyone wants him. Matt Duchene, he says he wouldn’t mind a trade. Matt Duchene, he’s a huge difference-maker. Matt Duchene, he is very strong and smart.

To be fair, in a league in which everyone is given the impression that they’re in the playoff hunt right up until it becomes all too apparent that they actually aren’t and never were, we can forgive some level of half-baked optimism that 75 percent of the teams in the league might be in on one or two or maybe even three players, all of whom play for the Colorado Avalanche.

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It’s to the point now that “shipping” a Matt Duchene-to-the-latest-team-of-choice romance is something of a cottage industry. It’s Sam-and-Diane (or Jim-and-Pam if you’re under the age of 68) for 2017, except if the actresses who played Diane and Pam were swapped out bi-weekly.

It’s getting ridiculous, but it’s only going to continue until Duchene is traded (or, hell, isn’t) at the deadline. And we can all agree that if he doesn’t go at the deadline, the hockey world is all the poorer for it, because we’ll just do this all again until, what, the expansion draft? Maybe the day before free agency? And if he’s not traded then, well, we get to twist again until the next deadline.

So okay, here we go folks, this is — from what I can tell — the latest list of would-be buyers for whatever various young forwards the Avs are willing to move.

Who’s Going Where?

Good lord, man, who knows?

Remember a few weeks ago when it made so so so so so much sense for him to go to Ottawa? Bruce Garrioch and Elliotte Friedman both say that’s not likely to happen because the Avs would want Thomas Chabot and the Sens aren’t going to give him up. Garrioch also says it has to do with not-wanting to trade Cody Ceci, which, if that’s the reason, it’s a misevaluation of the defenseman’s utility.

Garrioch further notes that the ask for Duchene right now is basically what we’ve heard all along: good young defenseman, better prospect, first-round pick. That’s what everyone wants for anyone decent these days, and why not? All those things are in short supply, and if the number of sellers at the deadline is going to get smaller every year, you might as well ask for the damn moon and see where you end up. Even if you have to come down later, as Pierre LeBrun notes.

“There’s a better deal in June for them,” one Western Conference exec told LeBrun.

That’s not to say the Sens didn’t kick the tires, according to LeBrun and others. Also linked above, the Bolts and Habs did as well (Jack Todd, not the kind of guy you’d be wise to listen to, speculates that Nathan Beaulieu would be the big piece going the other way in a Colorado/Montreal trade. Good luck with that). LeBrun, though, notes that the majority of teams in the league have given them a call.

Mike Zeisberger also has the Habs and Sens as good fits. Earlier, LeBrun had the Predators interested.

And most recently, the implication from Terry Frei was that the Carolina Hurricanes sent scout Joe Nieuwendyk to Colorado to look at Duchene or perhaps Gabriel Landeskog because they have so many good young defensemen they could potentially part with to upgrade at the center position, which wouldn’t be a bad idea for a team like the Hurricanes, considering.

Ah, but here’s a wet blanket for you: As to the earlier point about maybe having to wait until the summer for Duchene or Landeskog to shake loose, that’s what Kevin Allen says is likely, noting that while interest is there, “piecing together an in-season deal could be too complicated.”

DENVER, COLORADO – APRIL 01: Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to facing the Washington Capitals at Pepsi Center on April 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Implications

The thing is, there’s little reason not to want Duchene if you’re a contender, right?

Strong young-ish No. 2 center on just about any team with a good No. 1, and a pretty good No. 1 if you think that’s what you’re lacking. It’s no wonder LeBrun says it’s easier to list the teams that haven’t kicked the tires on him at some point. We can all remember back to the Boston Bruins wanting him but passing when the ask included Brandon Carlo.

But this update includes the Senators (long-rumored, obviously), the Montreal Canadiens, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Nashville Predators, and perhaps even the Hurricanes. That’s fully 20 percent of the teams in the league in the past month or so being directly connected to a deal for Duchene (slightly more than that if you account for the fact that the Avs can’t trade him to themselves. They don’t have the assets). One can imagine that even more teams have at least put in a call to check on the price.

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So about that price, and that concept that it needs to come down. I have a quick question on that: Why does it need to come down?

Is this not a 26-year-old former third overall signed at a relatively low price of $6 million AAV for another two seasons after this one? Even if the Avs want to blow it up, it doesn’t hurt to have someone of his caliber sitting around helping the rebuild. By the time it comes to an end, in theory and only if things go very badly, he’ll be, what? Like 31 or 32? He’s on pace for three straight seasons of 55-plus points and guys like this don’t grow on trees.

Frankly, the asking price being so high is a good strategy for Joe Sakic. “You want this guy with this resume? Yeah, we’ll give him up if you make it worth our while. If not, oh rats, we have to keep a cost-controlled 26-year-old center who scores 65 points every 82 games over the past four years under a series of ineffective coaches.”

Again, it’s not like there are likely to be a lot of sellers out there at this deadline. That’s the funny thing about the current cap environment and the league’s fake parity: It creates a huge market for a very small number of players who actually move the needle.

Like I said earlier, there’s no reason for the Avs not to stick to the price at least for the time being. Let’s see how desperate these suckers get. Because honestly, of the teams listed above with apparent interest, how many have the talent levels to be true contenders? Nashville and that’s it? Maybe Montreal if you squint real hard and ignore the whole Metro division? Yeah, so the teams in pursuit here are really just trying to make an extra playoff round or two. And when you’re motivated by money, you’re not necessarily going to make the best personnel decisions (see also: Senators, Ottawa).

This Is So Huge, If True: Is It True?

On a B.S. detector scale of 1-5, with one being the most reasonable and 5 being the least:

So let’s just keep this really basic:

Matt Duchene gets traded:

poop

(Very likely to happen but not a lock.)

Matt Duchene gets traded at or before the deadline:

poop

(Lots of other factors involved)

The asking price for Matt Duchene drops appreciably before the deadline:

poop

(Not really a make-or-break thing at the end of the day.)

I think that’s about it. A fifth of the league wants the guy, for very good reason. I still think Landeskog is more likely to get shipped, but that’s not really the point here.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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