Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Seven abandoned plot points from the NHL offseason

The writers in charge of the NHL’s off-season script are struggling.

They spent the last year opening up all sorts of interesting storylines and plot holes, with lots of fun ways they could go. But now the summer is here, the credits are about to roll, and there are still all sorts of loose ends to tie up.

They’ve wrapped up a few. The Dallas Stars finally got that goalie they’ve been hunting for years, the touching Kevin Shattenkirk homecoming played out pretty much like we all expected, and the Connor McDavid contract plotline came together nicely. Some of it feels kind of derivative – haven’t we seen this Blackhawks roster already? – but for the most part it’s been fine.

But as the off-season wears on and things start getting quiet, it’s hard not to notice that several key subplots seem to have been quietly dropped by the league’s writing staff. So today, let’s look at seven NHL offseason storylines that we’re still waiting on.

The Matt Duchene trade

The Duchene trade watch has been on in Colorado ever since his coach, Patrick Roy, ripped him at the end of the 2015–16 season for celebrating wrong. Roy’s surprise August resignation may have bought some time, but as last season wore on a trade started to feel inevitable, with even Duchene himself acknowledging he was open to a fresh start.

The only question was when it would happen. With the Avalanche flatlining, there was plenty of pressure on Joe Sakic to get the best possible deal for the former third-overall pick, and timing was important. The rumoured asking price was high, and as the season wore on, some began to wonder if it might not make more sense to wait until the off-season. When the deadline passed without the Avs doing much of anything at all, the focus shifted to what Sakic could do at the draft.

Well, the draft has come and gone. So has most of free agency. So has almost all of July. And not only is Duchene somehow still in Colorado, but the rumour mill seems to be falling silent.

Maybe that’s a good thing — the calm before the storm, and all that. But with August approaching and the number of teams that could plausibly put together a deal getting smaller, it’s starting to look like not getting a trade done during the season could end up as a costly miscalculation by Sakic and the Avs. Duchene finished the season ice cold, and with cap space disappearing around the league after nearly four weeks of free agency, it’s possible that there just isn’t anyone left out there willing to pay a fair price.

Could Duchene start the season in Colorado? It’s starting to look that way. And since early-season trades have become all but extinct, that would mean yet another year of Sakic waiting for the trade deadline. Or maybe the draft. Or maybe July. Or maybe… well, to be continued, apparently.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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