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The Incredible Matt Duchne (no-)Trade Saga

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Everyone’s piling on Joe Sakic for not making a deal, but maybe he’s right to play hardball?

Colorado Avalanche v New York Islanders
“Wait, you mean Kulemin’s contract isn’t enough?”
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Everyone wants Matt Duchene. No one knows what it would take to get Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic to part with him.

And few know what has truly been offered to try to make it happen.

Friday and Saturday heading into the NHL’s free agent opening were just another chapter in the “Team is pushing for Duchene” saga, which goes back at least to the 2017 NHL trade deadline, had another Islanders-related flare-up around the prior weekend’s draft, and looks to consume the summer until Sakic or a suitor change their tune.

The Price: ALL the Marbles

To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Sakic requires a top-four defenseman, another key roster player, a top prospect and more.

There is a school of thought that the Islanders were offering Travis Hamonic, a first-round pick, and a not-Mathew Barzal prospect, as reported in Newsday. The Avalanche said no.

Longtime Avalanche beat reporter Adrian Dater counters that, however:

I’ve done some of my own calling around since, and my sources are saying the bulk of that report is untrue. While Hamonic may have been offered, an additional first-round pick was not.

Reporters can only relay their assessment of what they gather from sources; likely, the teams are putting out — or emphasizing — contrasting aspects of their trade negotiations.

It’s moot now that the Islanders flipped Hamonic to Calgary for a first-rounder and more — likely as powder in the arsenal to flip for something else — but would Hamonic even qualify as that sought-after top four?

Much has been said and treating what respected hockey reporters across the land have tweeted, but they’ve largely been contradictory. The only consistent thing is that Joe Sakic has demanded a lot and no one has come close. (Keep in mind that with a team destined for last place, he had little incentive to rush a trade at the trade deadline instead of wait for summer, unless someone blew him away.)

One possible scenario is that given the Avalanche ask -- a top four plus a top prospect, among other things -- the fact Hamonic is not an ideal top-four means the prospect had to be a truly top one like Barzal. So if you’re not parting with Barzal, you better be offering a better defenseman than Hamonic.

It’s possible the Islanders dealt Hamonic elsewhere to get “peak” value for him and upon realizing that Hamonic was never going to work for the Avalanche as a trade centerpiece.

Which brings us to the discussions about a deal with the Predators. The Predators’ top four is the envy of the league, and it’s an even bet the Avalanche would prefer any of those four over Hamonic.

The Predators weren’t messing with that, though.

Similarly, much was made over the last two days about the Blue Jackets aiming for Duchene. But if the oft-injured and depth-chart-surpassed Ryan Murray is their chief “top four” offering, does that really move the needle for Sakic?

It all goes back to something that fans of teams coveting Duchene overlook: Other than Duchene getting exasperated with the situation and wanting out (that’s not confirmed, just increasing speculation), Sakic has NO COMPELLING REASON to trade one of his top assets.

Yes, Sakic’s team is a mess, but in order to correct things, he shouldn’t deal a top player for scraps. He should get a serious package back. It’s not like things can get uglier than they were in their expansion-level 2016-17 season.

That means not your #3 or #4 defenseman and your second-best prospect. It means a serious blueliner and prospect. We can jokingly mock Sakic, but making sure he gets outstanding return is imperative.

In that Dater column mentioned earlier, he drew a connection to Avalanche assistant GM Chris MacFarland, who was part of the Blue Jackets braintrust when they waited out the Rangers to maximize return in the Rick Nash trade.

While any acquiring team will need $6 million in cap space (minus whatever roster players go back the other way) to make it happen, teams have a way of clearing salary when they really want something. So Sakic waiting past July 1 — when teams add salary, though neither the Isles, Blue Jackets nor Predators added significant salary — isn’t necessarily fatal to a good deal.

Maybe that’s what’s going on. It could be a long summer. As dust settled on July 1, there was this:

but then this:

and also this:

Duchene is a highly sought center coming off a sub-par season. A childhood Avalanche fan, he was drafted by that team among much fanfare in 2009. But things have not gone as planned.

Things seldom work out that way.