Matt Duchene is having a rough year in Colorado and may be playing his way out of the Avs’ asking price. But Coyotes seem like a good fit for the center.
Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene was a fixture in the rumor mill for weeks leading up to the NHL trade deadline. Speculation linked the 26-year-old to several clubs, including the Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators.
The Avalanche’s reported asking price for Duchene was a good young NHL-ready defenseman or goaltender, a first-round pick, a top prospect and possibly more. Little wonder, then, that Duchene wasn’t moved by the deadline.
It’s believed the Avs will resume entertaining offers for Duchene in the off-season, particularly in late-June as the trade market roars back to life following the playoffs.
The St. Louis Blues were also mentioned as a possible destination for Duchene. Given Paul Statsny’s injury history and the disappointing play of Jori Lehtera, the Blues need a healthy, skilled scoring center. However, it doesn’t appear as though they’ll be pursuing the Avs star.
In a recent live chat, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said a scout told him the Blues “don’t want Duchene.” They apparently consider the Avs center a “good-to-great player,” but questioned his leadership and don’t consider him worth the high asking price.
Duchene is undeniably talented. He’s played for Canada at several World Championships, as well as the recent World Cup of Hockey and the 2014 Winter Olympics. A versatile forward who can skate at center or on the wing, he’s reached or exceeded 55 points five times in his eight NHL seasons.
One has to wonder if other clubs share the Blues’ opinion. Duchene’s faced some criticism for his performance. Former coach Patrick Roy took him to task last April for his celebration after scoring his 30th goal during a lopsided loss to the Blues.
At a time when his struggling club needed leadership and inspired play, Duchene’s performance declined. Of his 37 points in 64 games this season, only 13 were tallied since January 1. His goal on March 15 against the Detroit Red Wings was his first point in 12 games and only his fourth goal this calendar year.
Duchene isn’t solely to blame for the Avalanche’s woes this season. Given his talent, there will be clubs interested in acquiring him this summer. However, the question of character could become a factor that adversely affects his trade value.
The Arizona Coyotes could be among the clubs to pursue Duchene. They were already thin at center for most of this season. Trading away Martin Hanzal to the Minnesota Wild before the trade deadline weakened them further at the position.
The Arizona Republic‘s Sarah McLellan reports Coyotes coach Dave Tippett considers finding a first-line center an important issue to address this summer. They have the depth in draft picks and young prospects to use as trade bait. However, McLellan believes they face a daunting challenge.
She notes trade options are limited, pointing out Duchene and the Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins popped up in media rumor discussions.
Veteran such as Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks and Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators are eligible for unrestricted free agency. However, McLellan believes they could re-sign with their current clubs.
The Coyotes could target clubs that might be forced to shed talent for expansion draft or salary-cap purposes. Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson could be one possibility. He’s a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights and in line for a significant raise over his current $3.33- million cap hit.
However, the Lightning would likely seek a top-four defenseman in return. They could set their sights on promising Jakob Chychrun.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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