Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk remains a hot topic in the rumor mill, but don’t count on a trade to the Maple Leafs; Matt Duchene starting to draw interest.
Following the NHL All-Star Game break, there’s no shortage of speculation over Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene and St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. With the March 1 trade deadline less than a month away, the pair remain hot topics in the rumor mill.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports Nashville Predators GM David Poile looked into the 26-year-old Duchene’s availability, though discussions haven’t advance beyond that. Poile made two blockbuster moves last year, dealing defenseman Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for blueliner P.K. Subban and shipping defenseman Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen.
Despite Poile’s recent history of major moves, LeBrun notes the club is starting to gel after struggling through the first half of the season. He wonders if the Preds GM is willing to jeopardize their chemistry with another big trade.
LeBrun’s colleague Darren Dreger said the Montreal Canadiens also looked at Duchene, but doubts they’ll overpay to get him. While the Avs center hasn’t requested a trade, Dreger thinks interest could increase if he did. He notes the Arizona Coyotes and St. Louis Blues are among the clubs seeking depth at forward.
Like Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman assumes the Canadiens were looking at Duchene. He also believes the New York Islanders had some interest. Friedman suggests the Carolina Hurricanes could be a good trade partner, citing their depth in good young defensemen.
The cost of acquiring Duchene, however, remains a significant sticking point. He’s signed through 2018-19 at an annual average value of $6 million, which is difficult to move during the season. The asking price, however, remains the biggest hurdle.
Dreger’s colleague Bob McKenzie reports the Avs seek a heavy return of three or four pieces. The three-piece scenario involves a good young (20 to 24) established player, a first-round draft pick and a top prospect. That price tag alone makes moving Duchene before the deadline almost impossible.
Duchene is a good scoring forward, coming off a 30-goal campaign in 2015-16 and close to that pace this season. He still has several productive seasons ahead of him. But he’s not worth a kings’ ransom.
It’s assumed Sakic will wait until this summer in hopes of finding more willing trade partners. Until he proposes a more reasonable return, he could still find moving Duchene in the off-season a difficult task.
Unlike Duchene, the 28-year-old Shattenkirk is an unrestricted free agent this summer. That significantly improves his chances of being dealt by the trade deadline, provided the Blues set a reasonable price.
Reports last summer indicated Shattenkirk’s preferred to be dealt to an Eastern Conference club. Dreger reports the blueliner’s reps deny this, which should open up more potential trade options for the Blues.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in need of skilled blueline depth, which became more apparent when Morgan Rielly was recently sidelined. With the Leafs contending for a playoff berth, that’s prompted some observers to propose pursuing Shattenkirk as a rental player.
LeBrun, however, doesn’t see that happening. He doesn’t think Leafs management wants to part with big assets for someone who could bolt via free agency in July. LeBrun suggests it might be a different story if Shattenkirk was under contract beyond this season. He feels they’re better off pursuing younger and more affordable options, such as Brandon Montour or Shea Theodore of the Anaheim Ducks.
It’s tempting for the Leafs to pursue a Shattenkirk deal, but it could cost them one or two good young players as part of the return. Given the Blues’ need for depth at center, they could seek Nazem Kadri or the versatile William Nylander.
Signing Shattenkirk on a long-term deal could cost more than $6 million annually. Over the last two years, the Leafs shed some high-salaried veterans to rebuild with youth. Such an expensive deal could be seen as returning to the bad habits of previous Leafs regimes.
Dreger also points out a number of teams expressing interest in Shattenkirk see him as a second-pairing defenseman. If so, it makes no sense for the Leafs to sacrifice young players and valuable cap space when he won’t address their need for a top-two rearguard.
Reaching the playoffs would be a great learning experience for the Leafs promising youngsters. However, there could be more affordable options to bring in as rental players or long-term options.
LeBrun noted the Ducks are loaded with good young blueliners. With the expansion draft coming in June, the rules won’t allow them all to be protected. Rather than lose one for nothing, perhaps the Ducks might be willing to talk trade. The Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild are also in the same boat.
If it’s a rental the Leafs seek, Buffalo’s Dmitry Kulikov, Arizona’s Michael Stone, Carolina’s Ron Hainsey or Philadelphia’s Mark Streit or Michael Del Zotto would be more affordable rental options.
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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