The Avalanche knew they had a good asset in Matt Duchene and didn’t want to waste it. General manager Joe Sakic spent over a year fielding offers for the star forward as a result, even though it meant having him come to training camp and open the season with the team in an occasionally awkward scene.
After all those months of rumors, speculation, and actual trade negotiations, the Avalanche finally pulled the trigger Sunday on a three-way deal with the Senators and Predators that sent Duchene to Ottawa and Kyle Turris to Nashville.
For Colorado, the trade resulted in a big package of seven different pieces, none of which was the big-name young defenseman Sakic had reportedly sought. But the team still got a lot of value in exchange for less than two years of Duchene’s career, and it’ll help push forward a rebuild that’s now firmly focused around Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.
None of these players or picks will transform the Avalanche tomorrow. Duchene was in some ways a depreciating asset with his free agency looming in the summer of 2019. The team didn’t have that much longer to maximize what it could get before he’d be a one-year rental, but it still got six long-term assets in the package.
Here’s what the Avs received:
Defenseman prospect Samuel Girard, Nashville’s 2016 second-round pick
Forward prospect Vladislav Kamenev, Nashville’s 2014 second-round pick
Forward prospect Shane Bowers, Ottawa’s 2017 first-round pick
Goaltender Andrew Hammond
2018 first-round pick from Ottawa*
2018 second-round pick from Nashville
2019 third-round pick from Ottawa
*The 2018 first-rounder is top-10 protected, per Elliotte Friedman. If it falls in the top 10, the Avalanche receive the Senators’ 2019 first-round pick without protections.
Instead of adding any kind of elite talent, the Avalanche had to settle for a bit of quantity. Girard, Kamenev, and Bowers are all solid or better prospects, and three picks in the first three rounds gives Colorado three more chances to replenish its system. There’s no sure-thing impact player here, but it’s a lot of talent.
Let’s consider how rare it is for star forwards to be traded, and the difficulty to receive proper value in return is a big part of that. Here are some examples of deals from the past few years:
- Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson
- Eric Staal for Aleksi Saarela, two second-round picks
- Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones
- Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad
- Ryan O’Reilly for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher, and a second-round pick
- Milan Lucic for Martin Jones, first-round pick, Colin Miller
- Jason Spezza for Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptil, Nick Paul, and a second-round pick
Looking at those returns, unless you had a young stud like Johansen or Panarin, you weren’t getting a young stud in return. The Oilers needed to give up Taylor Hall in order to add the solid young defenseman they coveted in Larsson. It’s fair to say that Hall, with all those extra years on his contract, was worth a lot more than Duchene at that point. The Avalanche clearly weren’t getting the young, star blue-liner they sought, otherwise they would have made that trade instead of this one.
Of course, there’s also not really a perfect comparison among those deals. Staal was a rental, Lucic is a winger, O’Reilly only had one year left on his deal, and other guys were younger or under contract longer. Spezza had demanded a trade from the Senators, and look what they got. At least compared to that instance, the Avalanche did much, much better.
No, that great young defenseman to build around hasn’t arrived, but Colorado still has a lot going for it. MacKinnon and Ratanen look like a potentially incredible one-two punch. Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie are still really good pieces. Girard, Kamenev, and Bowers join a prospect corps that includes Cale Makar, the No. 4 pick from the 2017 NHL Draft. For next year’s draft, the team will have six picks in the first three rounds, including two first-round picks.
The Avalanche weren’t going to win a Stanley Cup in the next year or so with Duchene, so they’re moving forward to the future without him. All things considered, it looks like Sakic’s patience worked out.