Now, it’s important to note that there’s no word on a trade being close.
Really, there are plenty of reports that indicate that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic continues to hold out for a great deal, whether you believe his aims are reasonable or not.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in “31 Thoughts” that the Avalanche may have at least discussed P.K. Subban with the Nashville Predators, and updates back up the notion that Sakic is shooting high:
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) September 13, 2017
So, to reiterate, it could be quite a while before the Avalanche trade Duchene. It’s really difficult to tell, especially since moves can come together quickly after laying dormant for what seems like ages.
So, again, this isn’t to say a trade is coming. With training camp nearing, it’s fun to break down the facets of a possible move, anyway.
The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets have not offered up the combination of Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray to try to nab Duchene, but in a Wednesday newsletter, Portzline reported that such a combination could possibly meet the Avalanche’s needs.
Even beyond this post’s earlier disclaimer, it’s important to note that Portzline reports Jenner is a little banged up, so that would likely hold up a move even if Sakic would bite:
#CBJ Boone Jenner has a “middle body” injury and will be held out early in training camp.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) September 13, 2017
Let’s explore the logic of a possible move, though.
A game-breaker for Columbus?
The Hurricanes and Blue Jackets have at least two things in common that could make a Duchene trade more feasible and palatable: each franchise boasts a nice prospect stockpile and lack a true top center.
Now, you can argue that Duchene isn’t an “elite” No. 1 pivot, but he could really flesh out Columbus’ group (and take some pressure off, say, Alex Wennberg).
It’s easy to fixate on Duchene’s rough 2016-17 season, but at age 26, it’s fair to argue that last season was an anomaly. The Avalanche were a borderline historic disaster, and even if Duchene could have played better, it’s absurd to pin too much on the speedy scorer.
Look at his previous four sesaons and you’ll see evidence of a gamebreaker, especially in the low-scoring, modern NHL.
Duchene generated at least 20 goals in three straight seasons from 2013-14 to 2015-16, and he almost hit 20 (scoring 17) during the 48-game lockout season of 2012-13.
The Blue Jackets, to some extent, score by committee. Adding a little more dynamic skill could really help Columbus find that “extra gear.”
Murray, the mystery
Portzline indicates that a package involving Murray and Jenner could move the needle more, so let’s ponder Murray for a moment.
Considering that the Avalanche are shooting high for a Duchene return, they’d have to figure that Murray, 23, needs a fresh start. Management might even see the potential for a high-draft-pick turnaround that parallels how Erik Johnson‘s enjoyed a nice run with the Avs.
Because, yikes, it’s been a bumpy ride. Injuries derailed his early development, and Murray seemed generally overwhelmed in 2016-17:
Yep, that would require a leap of faith … or the Avalanche would really need to be smitten by Boone Jenner.
Jenner is an interesting test case in perception.
Yes, he scored 30 goals in 2015-16, but nine of them came on the power play. Jenner was limited to 18 goals in 2016-17, with none coming on Columbus’ locomotive man-advantage. Realistic expectations probably place him at 20 goals with modest playmaking.
Jenner brings nice size and is only 24, so there are selling points.
Still, it’s possible that Blue Jackets management views his strengths as redundant. He averaged less than 30 seconds of power-play time last season after logging about two minutes per night in 2015-16, for instance,
Jenner ($2.9M, RFA after 2017-18) and Murray ($2.825M, RFA after 2017-18) and Duchene ($6M, UFA after 2018-19) all have their strengths and weaknesses. They’re all at or approaching a fork in the road in their careers with little time on their current contracts.
A Jenner + Murray combo could make some sense for the Avalanche, especially with both being at prime ages. You’d think that the Blue Jackets might need to sweeten the deal with a prospect, at least considering how big Sakic is seemingly dreaming.
Personally, from a Blue Jackets perspective, this seems like a great deal.
It would set the stage for a potentially fascinating summer of 2019, as Duchene, Artemi Panarin, and Sergei Bobrovsky would all be eligible for unrestricted free agency. On the other hand, that would allow Columbus to assess where the franchise is at over a season or two, and pivot if they feel that this group just can’t get it done.
One understands the lure of hoarding prospects, especially with how fans can sometimes get attached to the daydream of production that may never come. Sometimes you have to swing for the fences, though, and the Blue Jackets might want to do that with Duchene.
You know, if they can actually convince Sakic to accept a reasonable deal.