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NHL trade rumors 2017: Are the Hurricanes stockpiling draft picks for a Matt Duchene trade?

They sure have a lot of them.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes have made two moves (so far) leading up to the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday.

Neither are the BIG MOVE™ many expected them to make. But it seems like these are the first steps toward that.

On Feb. 23, Carolina sent Ron Hainsey to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2017 second-round pick and a minor-leaguer. On Tuesday, the Hurricanes sent Viktor Stalberg to the Senators for a 2017 third-round pick.

Neither of these moves are very interesting. But put into context, they’re fascinating.

Here’s how the 2017 NHL draft shapes up for Carolina right now:

SEVEN PICKS IN THE FIRST THREE ROUNDS. And 11 overall in 2017! There’s no way they hold on to all of them. They’re clearly stockpiling. But for what?

The answer is kind of clear: Matt Duchene.

It’s no secret the Avalanche center is ready to move on from Colorado. The Avalanche are still listening to offers for him.

And for the longest time, the Hurricanes have been linked to Duchene. It makes sense. Carolina could use a young, controllable center to to round out their top six. In any trade, Colorado would want top-notch defensive prospects and a slew of draft picks. Carolina has the prospects: Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Haydn Fleury, and Roland McKeown are all NHL-ready and potentially available.

What they’ve lacked is a host of top picks to send along with them for Duchene. Until now. A weak 2017 draft means those seven (!) picks in the first three rounds are expendable, but no less valuable to a rebuilding club like Colorado.

It might not happen until the offseason, and this might be speculation on our part, but this makes too much sense. We see you, Carolina.