Where there’s smoke, there’s fire – and boy was there a lot of smoke around the Blue Jackets and Matt Duchene this summer.
The Blue Jackets’ desire to add a high-end pivot has been a storyline for months now, with the star center requesting a trade and the Blue Jackets having a hole down the middle of their lineup. The need was there, the Avs didn't need him, the player’s skill is a fit and the money lines up, for the most part.
Three games into the season, and Duchene is still with Colorado, and Columbus still has a dire need to add a skilled center to compliment Alexander Wennberg. Why?
For one, we’ve seen that when Jarmo has a price in mind, he’s willing to wait it out rather than overpay. But, from the Avs’ perspective, they’ve got some serious leverage, since there aren’t really any other feasible targets aside from Duchene. At least not yet.
There may be, soon, though.
Kyle Turris - Ottawa
Turns out, Duchene and the Avalanche aren’t the only star-team pairing on rocky ground right now. Kyle Turris is a pending free agent, and, despite his public desire to stay in Ottawa, is at an impasse in extension talks with the Sens. This, of course, wasn’t seen as a huge issue until a few days ago, when Darren Dreger https://www.fanragsports.com/insiders-term-dividing-issue-between-turris...https://www.fanragsports.com/insiders-term-dividing-issue-between-turris-and-senators/
“I think it’s headed to a trade,” he told TSN. "I’m not suggesting that it’s imminent… but before the February 26 trade deadline, yes."
Dreger went on to say that Turris wanted to commit long-term to the Senators, who have been holding steady on a shorter term deal, despite his status as their top center. If a deal can’t be agreed upon, they do not want to lose him to unrestricted free agency.
Another insider, Elliotte Friedman, was a bit more cautious in his analysis, saying teams don’t feel as if Ottawa is anxious to make a trade, but if they’re out of contention at the deadline, it could certainly happen.
So, why is he potentially expendable for Ottawa? For starters, star winger Mark Stone is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, and he’s probably a bigger priority. So, too, is Erik Karlsson, who’s extension window opens this July. Those two are due for huge raises – and with teams looking to save as much money as possible – the Sens may roll the dice on two of their highly-touted prospects, Logan Brown and Colin White, both first-round picks who have impressed since being drafted. After all, they’d still have two very capable veteran centers in Derick Brassard and Jean-Gabriel Pageau on their roster.
It’s also worth noting that Turris is represented by Kurt Overhardt – the notorious agent who became a villain for CBJ fans during Ryan Johansen’s holdout – so it may unlikely that the player caves and takes the shorter deal.
With all that in mind, it’d certainly make sense for Ottawa to move him at some point, but that may not be anytime soon.
Vadim Shipachyov - Vegas
This one’s just a weird situation all around.
If you’re an international hockey guru, you’re no doubt familiar with Shipachyov’s skills. The dynamic center has put up an astounding 48 points in 39 career international games, and was third in the KHL – the world’s second most competitive league – in scoring last year, putting up 76 points in 50 games. Those are some pretty damn good numbers.
Unfortunately for Columbus, Shipachyov signed a two-year deal with the Vegas Golden Knights back in May. Right now, in the short term, that’s looking pretty unfortunate for Shipachyov as well.
Sure, the Golden Knights are off to a hot start, but Shipachyov hasn’t had anything to do with that. Instead, he began the season in the AHL – but not playing there – while he waits for GM George McPhee to make a trade. He’s not alone, as arguably the two most valuable young players that Vegas got in the expansion draft (Alex Tuch, who was part of a bigger deal with the Wild, and Shea Theodore) are also in the AHL right now due to their waiver-exempt status.
An unverified report surfaced yesterday that Shipachyov was not happy about being sent down, and was seeking to return to Russia. A few hours later, McPhee addressed the media, and said that Shipachyov and his agent were initially upset, but then McPhee explained to them that it was a long-term roster play as they try to ship out a skater. In a vacuum, this makes sense, but in reality it was less than convincing.
First of all, their rationale for Shipachyov’s disappointment boils down to “the player didn’t understand that it was a paper move,” which is, at best, suggesting that they don’t communicate with their players and, at worst, saying he wasn’t smart enough to realize it on his own. Second, holding Shipachyov out so that they don’t risk losing a player who they have no intention of keeping on waivers doesn’t seem like the smartest play either, especially given how long Vegas has waited (fruitlessly) for a trade market to materialize.
For now, the official story is that they’re all on the same page. And they very well may be, but it’s easy to see how that move, the rationale behind it and the front office’s messaging could all serve to alienate the player.
If things end up going south, would Columbus be a potential destination? Well, there’s a need there, the money fits and Columbus has two of his Russian national team co-stars to help him get acclimated quickly.
Matt Duchene - Colorado
Okay, so this isn’t a new name at all, and most of the background here was covered above, but Duchene may be the best option out of the three. He’s certainly the most proven, with five separate 55-point seasons under his belt. He’s also the only one of these three who has been actively shopped around so far.
The Turris and Shipachyov situations have a long way to go before they become volatile enough that there’s a real urgency to move the player – or for the player to request a trade. Duchene and the Avalanche passed that threshold months ago, and while he’s still there, he’s still far and away the most likely to be dealt any time soon. So, it’s a realistic possibility that the Jackets and Avs find common ground – or that one of them caves and accepts whatever’s on the table.
After all, while it’s clear that the Blue Jackets don’t have other options at that position right now, it’s also pretty damn clear that the Avalanche don’t have any other serious suitors at this point.