Earlier this week, I wrote a 2-part series assessing the Hurricanes’ current roster and potential needs.
The centerpiece of identifying targets was the emerging situation in Colorado that sees the Avalanche struggling and rumored to be ready to make changes.
Today The Hockey News threw fuel on my Duchene musings by confirming that Duchene might in fact be available (no surprise there) and naming the Hurricanes as a team that has both the salary cap room and the trade assets to do a deal for Duchene.
Here my best guess for how a deal for Matt Duchene could go down.
The Avalanche’s first call/ask
Ideally what Colorado general manager Joe Sakic would want in return for Matt Duchene (or Gabriel Landeskog for that matter) is a top 4 defenseman. So when the conversation starts, Joe Sakic’s first ask is for 1 of Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce or Noah Hanifin. Though I think one could make a case that such a return would be fair for a proven top 6 forward and scorer in Duchene, I still think it is a short phone call. My bet is that Francis would not part with any of his core of young, already in the NHL defensemen. I think if Francis was open to doing a deal like this that he would have been in on the Taylor Hall deal with Faulk and/or might have considered trading someone like Brett Pesce to add scoring in the summer.
So the first conversation ends with Ron Francis telling Joe Sakic that he is definitely interested in making a deal for Matt Duchene and willing to put together a strong package but that such a package would not include Faulk, Slavin, Pesce or Hanifin.
Francis positioned well for plan B round of Duchene bidding
But here is the thing. I doubt that Sakic is going to pry loose a young but proven top 4 defenseman from anyone else. The reason that Francis is unwilling to make 1 part of the deal and also the reason that Edmonton parted with Taylor Hall to add a lower caliber player is because top 4 defensemen are incredibly rare.
The Hurricanes have 2 things that would give Francis the ability to be the top suitor once Sakic realizes that he is not going to net a 2016-17 top 4 defenseman but still wants to do a deal. The Hurricanes have a good collection of high-end futures including on the blue line. Francis has avoided dipping into this pool thus far, and that is not going to change for any kind of short-term rental. But I think he would carefully consider spending some futures if it is for a player who is importantly also part of the future. Matt Duchene is a veteran NHLer and a proven scorer, but he is also only 25 years old and signed for 2 more years past 2016-17. He is not a rental. He would be an important addition to a young core. For that, I think Francis would consider spending other futures.
But Matt Duchene is not going to be cheap
Oftentimes when fans bandy around trades for top players, they are willing to trade a lot as long as it is not good stuff. (Any of us who have been on the internet have read 100s of theoretical trades that saw the Maple Leafs trade a nice volume of 3-4 players that they did not want anyway for 1 that they did). The starting point is very quickly excluding a number of valuable assets from trade consideration. In fact, I did that by excluding the Hurricanes’ 4 young NHL level defensemen. I also do not see Francis making a sideways trade that sees an equal top 6 forward like Skinner or Staal going the other way. Francis is looking to creatively ADD a top-end forward, so any sideways deal is just wasted energy to end up back where he started.
But after that, I think even top-end futures would be on the table for creating a package to land a talent like Duchene.
In considering Colorado’s needs and wants, I think the tough second ask from the Avalanche’s side could be something like a combination of Elias Lindholm plus either (not both) of Roland McKeown or Haydn Fleury as the core of the deal. Lindholm immediately replaces Duchene with another, albeit lesser but with upside, top 6 young forward who slots right into the NHL lineup now. McKeown or Fleury adds the defenseman that the Avalanche covet in the form of a higher-end prospect who is not NHL ready yet but is fairly close. To get a deal done, I could see Francis extending by including another lower-round draft pick or lesser prospect.
When you add it up, the package could be as much as Elias Lindholm, Roland McKeown and a third round pick. That is admittedly a steep price that sees 2 players who could have been part of the roster for years to come plus a sweetener. But that is the reality of it versus writing the article where I live in a dream world in which some second-tier prospects, a veteran depth player and 2 mid-round draft picks might actually get a deal done – it won’t.
The real magic would be if Francis could pull off a deal that sees only 1 of Lindholm of McKeown or Fleury packaged with a couple lesser prospects or picks such that the Canes only gave up 1 higher-end player in return for an elite one.
Would I do it?
In a word, yes. As I project to be the same for Francis, I would not be willing to include any of the 4 NHL-level defensemen. And as I stated above, a sideways trade for another top forward (Staal, Skinner, Rask) is a waste of time. Finally, Sebastian Aho and his untapped upside is off limits. To be honest, I would actually consider other recent/future top-end draft picks instead of Lindholm or McKeown, but my hunch is that Colorado is more likely to bite on a package that includes ready/near NHL ready assets.
What say you Canes fans?
(Must click ‘vote’ for each of the 2 polls individually.)