Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene's celebration after scoring his 30th goal of the season during a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues didn't sit well with Avs coach Patrick Roy. With the club's playoff hopes hanging by a thread, Roy's criticism of Duchene's actions during a post-game presser is once again giving rise to questions over the 25-year-old's future in Colorado.
A slow start to the season by the Avs and Duchene resulted in the latter's name surfacing in the rumor mill last November, linking him to the Ottawa Senators. As his play heated up, however, the speculation petered out by early-December.
TSN's Darren Dreger, however, believes Roy's harsh words toward Duchene only serve to “fuel and breed ongoing speculation” heading into the off-season. His colleague Frank Seravalli points out Roy also criticized his core players, of which Duchene is one. Given Roy has a say in player decisions with Avs GM Joe Sakic, Seravalli believes his comments have meaning.
If Duchene hits the trade block this summer, Seravalli feels there will be considerable interest in him. The young center is approaching his playing prime, coming off a career-best in goals and lacks a no-trade clause. For clubs seeking a first-line center, Duchene could be a juicy target.
The Avs' asking price, however, will be expensive. Given their lousy defensive numbers over the last three years, they could seek a top-two defenseman. His $6-million annual cap hit through 2018-19 is another stumbling block.
The Denver Post's Terry Frei reports Duchene and Roy cleared the air and have no issue going forward. Still, it won't be surprising if his name pops up again as a trade candidate leading up to the 2016 NHL Draft in June.
EXPECT CHANGES IN OTTAWA
While the Avalanche's off-season plans have yet to be determined, change is expected this summer for the Ottawa Senators. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Bryan Murray confirmed team owner Eugene Melnyk's recent claim the club faces a review at every level following a disappointing finish to this season.
Murray said his club still needs a top-six forward and perhaps a third-pairing defenseman. Garrioch claims the Sens had “mild interest” in Edmonton Oilers right winger Nail Yakupov leading up to the trade deadline. Murray also reportedly spoke with Tampa Bay Lightning management regarding left winger Jonathan Drouin, who is expected to be traded at this year's draft.
Garrioch's colleague Don Brennan observes Senators center Mika Zibanejad was building a new $2-million home in the Ottawa area. Given Melnyk's promise of change, Brennan wonders if that's a good idea for Zibanejad right now. Though the 24-year-old center is fifth in Senators scoring this season, Brennan feels it's uncertain where he fits into the club's future plans.
Senators management will undoubtedly consider all their options this summer. They could revisit discussions with the Avalanche about Duchene, but unless they're willing to part with a good young player as part of the return, that could prove too expensive a move.
Yakupov, 22, would be more affordable. However, he's a reclamation project and doesn't suit the Senators' immediate need at forward. The 21-year-old Drouin has promise but he's yet to fully establish himself as an NHL talent. The Lightning could seek a return well outside the Sens' comfort zone.
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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