First, to be clear, I am aware of no rumors that Duchene is available. My writing is basic speculation on my part based on where Colorado is in the standings right now and the fact that Duchene was rumored to be available over the summer. Also, I am not aware of any sources saying that the Carolina Hurricanes have any interest at all in trading Justin Faulk.
The spark – Possibility that Matt Duchene could become available
Tuesday during a lunchtime scrum on Twitter, I got into a conversation that started with me saying that I thought timing was good for Ron Francis to pounce on adding Matt Duchene via trade from Colorado.
I think Matt Duchene is a great fit on multiple levels:
1) He skates well which fits well in Peters’ system.
2) He could fill the center slot that has been a revolving door thus far (Lindholm, then Teravainen (and again with Staal out) and then Ryan) and significantly do it in a way that boosts the offense.
3) He brings the perfect balance of being a proven NHL scorer (4 consecutive 20-goal seasons if you prorate the lockout-shorted 2012-13 season) but importantly in the form of a long-term player who is only 25 years old.
The Colorado Avalanche are sputtering right now at the very bottom of the Western Conference with only 19 points in 24 games. This is the time of year when NHL GMs sometimes go knee-jerk reaction out of frustration or desperation.
What does this have to do with Justin Faulk?
Important to note, I did NOT say that I would trade Justin Faulk for Matt Duchene (see below). If I was Ron Francis, I would be calling Joe Sakic offering some other package including Elias Lindholm or Teuvo Teravainen with some other futures. Odds are that this will not get a deal done, but again, it is that time of year where crazy stuff happens when teams start slowly and GMs overreact. Last season saw previously thought to be untouchable Ryan Johansen traded when the Blue Jackets got off to a disappointing start.
So the thinking of many is that if the Canes want to add Matt Duchene that this automatically requires a Justin Faulk for Matt Duchene trade. While I agree that this would certainly be Joe Sakic’s first ask and that it is the reasonable to match these players together, nothing says that it is 100 percent for certain the only way.
But fair enough – Faulk gets pulled into the conversation.
So would I trade Justin Faulk for Matt Duchene?
In a word, no.
I actually wrote the longer version of this part in late June when Taylor Hall’s name was bouncing around, and again the Hurricanes’ name in the mix was none other than Justin Faulk.
At a basic level, despite actually thinking that Faulk for Hall would have been a fair trade, I narrowly settled on being unwilling to make that trade for 3 reasons:
1) I value top defensemen more than top forwards.
2) I viewed Faulk as being not just a player but also a leader of the team.
3) While the projected future depth chart for the Hurricanes blue line is both impressive and deep, it just was not ready yet as of summertime. Slavin and Pesce looked good in 2015-16 but were still light on experience.
So has anything changed since summer, or is it still the same story?
Actually, I think a couple things have changed that would make Justin Faulk somewhat more expendable but not enough that I would deal him for a comparable forward like Duchene.
The first is that the young defensemen have taken a significant step forward in their development. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce have at least temporarily leapfrogged Justin Faulk to become the Hurricanes’ top defense pairing. And with Roland McKeown and Haydn Fleury looking nearly ready in preseason, the reinforcements are also tracking toward being NHL-ready sooner rather than later.
And at the same time, Justin Faulk’s play now nearly one-third of the way through the 2016-17 has not lived up to high hopes. A couple days ago in detailing the divergent results on the road versus at home, I detailed some of Faulk’s struggles on the road where he is suddenly a minus 17 after tacking on another minus 3 in Wednesday’s loss in Anaheim. He My hope is that his up and down play thus far in 2016-17 is due to a minor injury or perhaps just a slow start that will see him play his best hockey as the season wears on. But as the run of play that sees Faulk looking more like an offensive #4 defenseman than a solid top pairing defender pushes deeper into the season, the potential that he simply has regressed increases.
So wait…Am I saying that I would trade Faulk for Duchene?
Again, no. I am not ready to make the same knee-jerk reaction on Faulk that I am hoping for from Colorado based o their slow start. And despite modest doubts, I am still sticking to my original assessment that has Faulk as a solid top 4 defenseman and team leader. Knee jerk reactions based on small sample sizes are bad business practice for NHL general managers. My hope is that with a little bit of patience, Justin Faulk will right the ship and be the solid top pairing defenseman that he was slotted to be when the season started.
In my opinion, there are maybe 7-9 players in the entire NHL who are untouchable trade-wise. I would not put Justin Faulk in that category, but I still just am not ready to trade a young, experienced defenseman to get similar at the forward position. For me, it would require an overpayment to pry him loose.
So let’s steal Duchene!
So if Duchene does become available, here is hoping that Ron Francis can pull another rabbit out of the hat and steal some scoring help like Duchene without parting with Justin Faulk to do so. If, and only if, the Avs are interested in collecting some futures as part of their ransom, just maybe it is possible. The Hurricanes could offer a valuable package that included a young NHL roster forward (Lindholm or Teravainen) to essentially replace Duchene and then reasonably high picks and prospects to help build for the future.
What say you Caniacs?