For weeks leading up to the 2017 NHL trade deadline, Colorado Avalanche forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog were fixtures in the rumor mill. But when the deadline arrived, both players remained in Colorado.
Despite all the hype and anticipation, no one was surprised that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic opted to retain Duchene and Landeskog. Sakic's high asking price for each player – a young NHL-ready defenseman or goalie, a first-round pick, a top prospect and perhaps more – proved unpalatable for potential suitors.
TSN's Bob McKenzie told NBC Sports that Sakic felt no pressure to move either player on deadline day. With the Avalanche dead last in the overall standings, a blockbuster deal at the deadline wasn't about to save their season.
Of the two Avs stars, the 26-year-old Duchene garnered the most attention in the trade market. Following the deadline, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes were thought to be interested in the center, who can also play left wing.
Newsday's Arthur Staple reports Islanders GM Garth Snow preferred targetting “bigger fish” such as Duchene, or Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson.
Snow could have better luck this summer landing Duchene than prying Johnson, 26, away from the Lightning. Having shed Valtteri Filppula's $5-million salary cap hit for next season by shipping him to the Philadelphia Flyers, Bolts GM Steve Yzerman has more flexibility to re-sign Johnson and his fellow restricted free agents Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat.
The Isles, Senators, Canadiens and Hurricanes could revisit their interest in Duchene during the offseason. Their performances over the remainder of this season could influence their willingness to pay what Sakic seeks.
McKenzie believes Sakic is content to wait until this summer, when there should be greater interest from more teams. That's because teams usually have more salary-cap space to work with and thus more willingness to make significant trades.
This summer, however, could be different if the salary cap fails to substantially rise above the current $73-million ceiling. The lower value of the Canadian dollar in recent years resulted in only marginal increases in the cap, in turn affecting the trade market.
Should the cap only rise slightly above the current level for 2017-18, GMs could become frugal with their payrolls. That means less inclination to make big off-season trades. It could also place more emphasis on dollar-for-dollar moves.
Duchene's annual cap hit is $6 million through 2018-19, while Landeskog is signed through 2020-21 at just over $5.5-million annually. A stagnant cap ceiling could make those contracts difficult to move.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes the remaining term in Duchene's contract could be a sticking point. If the center was eligible to sign a contract extension this summer, and if the Hurricanes believed they could get it done, Friedman thinks he would be in Carolina now.
The problem for the Hurricanes, as well as other clubs looking into Duchene's services, is the risk of giving up a big return on a star who could depart via free agency two years from now. That feeling could carry over into this summer's trade market and hurt Sakic's efforts to land a significant return.
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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