Huge If True: Is a Matt Duchene trade plausible?

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Huge If True: Is a Matt Duchene trade plausible?
Huge If True: Is a Matt Duchene trade plausible?

[Breaking down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor.]

The Rumor

The stock-in-trade of rumor mongers across the league is the fact that they come up with things that theoretically could happen. Very few of them will actually say things like, “The Penguins are struggling, so I've heard they're looking to trade Sidney Crosby for Luca Sbisa, Bo Horvat, and a first-round pick.” That is implausible, and you would tell them so.

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Instead, they say things like, “The Penguins are struggling, so I've heard they're looking to trade Chris Kunitz for Luca Sbisa, Bo Horvat, and a third-round pick.” Everything there seems reasonable enough that you'd at least see it happening, right? Run a trade proposal through NHL 16 or whatever, see what gets approved, and you're ready to go.

Which is why the Matt Duchene rumors this week were so interesting (and not just because it's being reported pretty much exclusively by credible sources). No one in their right minds would trade Matt Duchene because a team as bad as the Avalanche are once again struggling.

But here's the thing: We have no evidence at all that the Avs are in their right minds. Therefore, it's not only feasible put perhaps even plausible that they'd be dumb enough to trade a guy who has 15 points in 18 games so far this season, and seems to at least be a guaranteed 50 or 60 points. And again, this is playing for a team that isn't very good.

So as to the rumor itself, on Nov. 12, Adrian Dater asked Joe Sakic if Nathan MacKinnon was the only untouchable guy on the team, and this was the reply:

"You know what, it doesn't matter what I say or what anyone says. Nate's not going anywhere, and there are guys that don't want to move. But you're always talking with teams, and you're wanting to listen on anybody, really."

And we're off. Dater raised the possibility that Duchene might be one of the guys on the block because of his cap hit ($6 million), and the next day TSN's Insiders (Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun) threw a good amount of gasoline on the fire, saying that not only were calls made about possibly trading Duchene, but with Dreger naming Ottawa as a team that got a call about Duchene in early November, and were surprised to get it.

However, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post notes that this was likely exploratory in nature, not that anyone is itching to trade Duchene. “Make no mistake, Sakic and his staff truly appreciate the team player,” he wrote, adding that they see Duchene as a “spark plug” for the team as a whole. He noted that, if anything, the Avs might want to trade Semyon Varlamov instead.

LeBrun then followed up with a separate report that Duchene's “name has been out there lately.”

If this road trip is the moment Colorado’s season is turning around for the better, perhaps Sakic sits tight.

But if the team doesn’t get going, I think all bets are off as far as what the Avs might be willing to do trade-wise before the March deadline. They’re not going to sit on their hands and do nothing if it’s another poor season.”

When asked about it later, also by Chambers, Sakic seemed surprised but denied nothing, using the tried-and-true “you're always listening, guys' names get brought up,” talk.

This is all in the space of three days or so.

Who's Going Where?

Right now, rumors suggest that if this happens, it's Duchene out and [???] coming back.

If you're talking about the Senators, as a jumping-off point, McKenzie says the Sens would likely send a defenseman (obviously not Erik Karlsson, and probably not Marc Methot) plus Colin Greening and his bad contract back the other way. A few days later, Elliotte Friedman weighed in to say that Colorado has tried to work out a deal with Ottawa for Patrick Wiercioch in the past, so one has to wonder if that name came up again as well. Obviously that would just be the beginning of the deal, but if he's even the centerpiece, that's ugly.

Meanwhile, Friedman also said Sakic tried to work with Toronto on a deal that would have swapped Ryan O'Reilly for Jake Gardiner, among other things. That might be a good conversation piece here too.

But as you might expect with this stuff, it generated a fair amount of daydreaming by people unqualified to do so. (Does anyone have any idea who Joe Pack is?)

The Implications

So here then, is what we have to consider: The Avs definitely called another team about their interest in Matt Duchene. May or may not have been all that serious about it, but the call happened, and this kind of thing doesn't happen for no reason.

With that having been said, so many caveats were immediately attached to the rumors as to make one wary of any sort of imminence on this front. Indeed, all the credible people who brought it up were basically saying, “This isn't going to happen but the call did, so, y'know.”

The Avs have huge holes in their roster. Everywhere.

They have maybe three NHL-level defensemen (if I'm being kind to Francois Beauchemin at 35). Their forward depth is a disaster (800-year-old Jarome Iginla gets more TOI per game than Gabriel Landeskog, Alex Tanguay is still hanging around somehow, etc.), and their coach has no idea what he's doing (Cody McLeod is often the team's extra attacker, if you can even come close to believing that).

Know what fills a lot of holes? Trading a 25-year-old former first-overall pick whose points-per-game since he came into the league is tied for 33rd in the league among guys with 400-plus games played. And in the last three years it's 23rd; 0.01 behind guys like Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise, Jiri Hudler, and Blake Wheeler.

You get back a haul for trading a player like this, in theory anyway. If what Sakic pulled for Ryan O'Reilly is any indication, he might not maximize the value on Duchene, but even still, while dumping a player of his talents probably hurts the team both in the short- and long-term (again, he's only 25), it might be a risk Sakic has to take.

Not that he'd like to do it, but the current circumstances of where this team is (and will remain) in the standings coupled with Duchene's contract vis a vis the club's budget at least gives you pause.

This Is So Huge, If True: Is It True?

On a B.S. detector scale of 1-5, with one being the most reasonable and 5 being the least ...

Just like last week's rumors about Patrick Marleau, there's enough input here from the true heavyweights of the rumors game — those with long, proven track records of being right about this kind of thing — that it's almost certainly something which has been actively discussed.

However, as always, you can discard any column that leads with “Here are some potential destinations for Player X,” because that's just someone doing a minimal amount of reading, then throwing darts.

Dreger's take on the subject is pretty definitive: “It seems unlikely Avs general manager Joe Sakic will move Duchene. Sakic might be using Duchene’s name as fodder in trade discussions that could lead to an entirely different move involving different players.” In a separate report, though, he said that the Avs are still open to it, because you have to be open to things when you're as bad as they are.

As such:

This is a team that was dumb enough to let Paul Stastny walk, then trade Ryan O'Reilly a year later. The Avs are demonstrably dumb, but they're not “Let three top centers walk in as many years” dumb.

Are they?

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

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