Can the New York Islanders really make a play for Matt Duchene?
Are they willing to pay the steep Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price for the forward selected two spots behind John Tavares in the 2009 draft?
(That retail price, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, is "three or four high-end pieces, and all the better if one of those high-end pieces is a young defenseman that’s ready to play in the National Hockey League right now.")
Perhaps it depends on your definition of "high-end piece," but no way are the Islanders giving up four of those for one of those.
So why is this a conversation point, why will the rumors and speculation continue?
Because the Avalanche are broken. Duchene is clearly at least mixed on the topic of his future, sounding like a player who wants to stay but more urgently wants to win, and doesn’t want the losing that has characterized the first seven years of his career to continue.
And the Islanders have been serious — but reasonable — about trying to make it work.
Continue to hear today that #Isles very much in on Matt Duchene. Nelson, Dal Colle likely involved. Question is Pulock or Hamonic?— Jimmy Murphy (@MurphysLaw74) February 28, 2017
Hearing that once-heavy Avs-Isles trade talks for Duchene have cooled. Sakic may have to wait til draft— Adrian Dater (@adater) February 28, 2017
My take on the conflicting info @adater & I getting today? Sakic stalling & Snow ready to deal. We'll see if they find common ground.— Jimmy Murphy (@MurphysLaw74) February 28, 2017
Reason would indicate, based on insider reporting up to this point, that Michael Dal Colle isn’t really a name that would make much difference in such a trade, unless he’s your third or fourth "high-end" piece. So disregard that, or at best consider it tangential.
The long-running reports are that the Avalanche want top prospects and impact or high-prospect defensemen -- and with good reason. As Pierre LeBrun recently put it:
"And what at play is they have a terrible blueline after one or two players. You mentioned their offensive stars. Well, they’re not going to be very offensive if they don’t get the puck. So they’re just spending too much time in their own zone. Their transition game is affected by their lack of talent on the back end. They get bottled up and they’re just not allowing MacKinnon and Duchene and the rest of those guys that they do have to do their thing. Not often enough.
"What they have now doesn’t work."
When Routine Bites Hard...As Desperation Takes Hold
Avalanche GM Joe Sakic is probably doing his best Steve Yzerman impersonation, holding out and holding out for someone to get desperate. Not feeling it, maybe he waits for the draft, when more teams are ready to reshuffle major assets. There’s a school of thought that you sell a non-rental at the deadline only if the buyer is absolutely desperate. Otherwise you wait until the summer auction period.
But don’t overlook the reality the Avalanche are desperate too. They’re a mess, they have high-end forwards -- some who are struggling this year — and obvious needs on the blueline if they hope to ever change things around.
That’s where Ryan Pulock, who must be protected or exposed in this summer’s expansion draft, would be in play. Pulock’s recovered from his early season injuries and having another oustanding AHL season in Bridgeport. He’s NHL ready.
And the Isles have some coverage there: Less heralded but progressing fast in the pipeline — and exempt from the expansion draft — is fellow Sound Tigers defenseman Devon Toews.
If the Islanders truly covet Duchene, and it has sure sounded all season like they do, they’d be willing — prefer it even — to give up two pieces that have to be protected in the expansion draft over a high-end prospect. That’s why you have the reporter tweet above speculating and spit-balling the names of Brock Nelson and Travis Hamonic too.
But if you’re talking about that plus the Islanders’ top prospect in Mathew Barzal, then it starts to get crazy.
So once again it goes back to Sakic. The Avs know they need changes. They know Duchene is their most valuable piece. They know the major improvement they need in return is on the blueline, but they’ll want something good up front to help fill the hole left by removing Duchene.
As uber insider Bob McKenzie said again this week:
"No, [the asking price] is not [changing]. But this is not a fire sale. Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche are trying to reload, rebuild, reset – call it what you want – their hockey team. ... [Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog] are players that if they don’t move by Wednesday’s deadline will move either before the expansion draft or the entry draft."
The Isles have some logical fits that would help the Avalanche, and they’re reportedly on the table. Sakic has every reason to decide the Isles aren’t deadline-crazy desperate enough, so he’ll wait until he can re-roll the dice this summer, when more trading partners can return to the table.