In the aftermath of the blockbuster three-team trade that sent Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche to the Ottawa Senators, clubs that were linked to the 26-year-old center in the rumor mill will be forced to look elsewhere.
Since early July, the Columbus Blue Jackets were reportedly very interested in Duchene. Speculation suggested Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen offered up a package that included defenseman Ryan Murray and winger Sonny Milano. With Duchene off the market, The Athletic's Aaron Portzline wonders what Kekalainen will do to address his club's need for depth at center.
Over the summer, the Carolina Hurricanes were suggested as a possible destination for Duchene. With the Canes sitting at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division, Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer believes GM Ron Francis must do something to shake things up, either with a coaching change or a trade. Like the Blue Jackets, the Hurricanes need help at center. Francis has so far resisted drawing upon his considerable blueline depth as trade bait. But with his club struggling early in the season, pressure could be building to do something to reverse their fortunes.
The Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders were also thought to have interest in Duchene. However, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin recently told the Montreal media not to expect any major moves to help his stumbling team. The Isles appear more focused on re-signing captain John Tavares, who's off to one of the best starts of his career.
Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks were also mentioned as possible landing spots for Duchene. The Bruins and Canucks, however, remain intent on retooling from within, while the Rangers seem to have sorted out their issues at center by employing Kevin Hayes and David Desharnais in the second- and third-line roles.
If any of these clubs opt to go shopping for centers this season they'll likely find the pickings slim. Kyle Turris is no longer available after being dealt to the Nashville Predators as part of the deal that sent Duchene to Ottawa.
The Athletic's Craig Custance reports Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist might attract interest later this season. Though the 28-year-old is now a winger, he has experience playing center. Nyquist can be a streaky scorer but he's exceeded 40 points in each of the last four seasons. He's signed through 2018-19 with an annual cap hit of $4.75 million and also carries a full no-trade clause, limiting where the Wings could send him if they decide to entertain offers for him.
Calgary Flames center Sam Bennett could be another option. Scoreless through his first 14 games, the 21-year-old was moved from center to third-line left wing. While the Flames aren't giving up on Bennett, Sportsnet's Doug MacLean feels the youngster might benefit from a change of scenery. Bennett still has upside and could blossom into a quality center. It's also possible that he's simply not cut out for that role at the NHL level. For clubs seeking immediate help, he's not a suitable trade target right now.
Several pending unrestricted free agents, such as Tavares, San Jose's Joe Thornton, St. Louis' Paul Stastny and Toronto's Tyler Bozak, could be available by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. However, that depends on where those clubs sit in the standings as the deadline nears. If they're all in the postseason chase, those players won't be going anywhere.
Tavares is obviously the best of the bunch. The Isles could shop him if they fear losing him for nothing to free agency next July. If so, they won't just give him away. The asking price will be huge, perhaps more than these teams are willing to pay, especially if they're jockeying for postseason contention.
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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