Why the Colorado Avalanche should stop playing and trade Matt Duchene (or not)

Five months after his name headlined candidates to be moved at the NHL trade deadline, the Colorado Avalanche's Matt Duchene has yet to be moved.

This despite persistent speculation both before, during and long after the start of free agency this summer that Avs general manager Joe Sakic would find a new home for Colorado's center.

As the saga drags into August and Duchene, left to embrace the uncertainty of his 2017-18 season, remains an unceremonious member of the Avalanche, here's a look at why Colorado should end the games and finally trade its forward -- and why they should not:

Why the Avalanche should trade Matt Duchene

  • Because they've virtually said they will. Over and over again. This is the NHL, where veteran names are floated in trade talks rather often, and obviously a team shouldn't be held to its word just because of rampant speculation about a specific player -- in this case, Duchene. But this isn't like a lot of situations. This is a case of a historically bad organization reportedly -- and repeatedly -- dangling its best player on the trade block and then, if reports are correct, struggling to pull the trigger on a deal and allowing a season-old distraction to carry into another year.
  • Getting good value for a player of Duchene's caliber is crucial, yes, but even more crucial at this point is Sakic proving the Avalanche are headed in the right direction. That doesn't mean he should make a move just to make a move, but it does mean he should take into consideration the fact his team has been utterly unable to win, let alone come close to it, with Duchene as the Avs' headliner -- and that he's subsequently left Duchene to wonder aloud how and why he hasn't been shipped elsewhere. If Newsday's Arthur Staple is right, Duchene's agent, Pat Brisson, has long been unhappy about the entire ordeal.
  • Duchene isn't a bad player. Not even close. So it's fair for Sakic to want to hold out for a hefty compensation package in trade talks. But at some point he must also realize that, outside of Colorado, his most prized asset fits best as a second- or, in the most ideal environment, a third-line center. Sure, playoff teams might not be the only ones after Duchene, who could warrant a much larger role elsewhere. But expecting multiple first-round draft picks for a guy who scored 18 goals in 2016-17 and will command $12 million over two seasons before hitting free agency? That's not exactly the way to get a deal done.

Why the Avalanche should keep Matt Duchene

  • They sure have done everything (as in, nothing) to make sure this could happen. At this point, talk of a potential Duchene move has gotten so old that no one hardly bats an eye when the latest wave of speculation -- the latest suggestion that Sakic could finally strike -- arises. So, if nothing else, Colorado could sit down with Duchene and let him know, amid his current summer schedule of "training blind," that he'll be sticking around as part of the Avs' core. At the very least, it could refocus Duchene, who has been waiting for a move since the 2016-17 trade deadline.
  • Just because it's August doesn't mean teams wouldn't be willing to make a deal, even a blockbuster one. The Pittsburgh Penguins, in fact, have been said to be eyeing more third-line center depth, and they've even apparently been "on the fringe" of discussions for Duchene. But how much value does Duchene even have right now? (Aside from not enough for Sakic's liking.) ESPN's Josh Cooper cites a Western Conference scout in suggesting the market for the Avs center "will tank" if a trade doesn't go down before the season, not to mention that "there's a negativity" surrounding the Avalance franchise and its Duchene situation.
  • If they can smooth over Duchene's comfort level in Colorado after all this hoopla, the Avs do, in some sense, stand to benefit from keeping the one guy on their roster who should draw interest on the trade market. Maybe the team's core contributors haven't done much, but perhaps building around or to supplement Duchene isn't such a bad idea, after all. It sure sounds like it more and more because of the long-anticipated move out of town for the center, but Duchene is still just 26, and he is a former 30-goal scorer. There's talent there, but it needs to be in the right situation.
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