Monday, November 6, 2017

Weekend wrap: The Duchene trade finally lands

The big NHL news from the weekend came off the ice, when the Senators, Predators and Avalanche combined to make a blockbuster three-way trade that finally ends our long national Matt Duchene sweepstakes nightmare.

Well, the news came off the ice for the Senators and Predators. The Avalanche were actually in the middle of a game when the news broke, which lead to the somewhat-bizarre scene of Duchene sneaking away from the action. You don’t see that often in the NHL, but given how long he’s had to wait for this move to go down, it’s amazing Duchene didn’t cartwheel off the bench and down the hallway as soon as it was announced.

The trade sees Duchene head to the Senators, Kyle Turris go to the Predators, and a haul of seven picks and players go to the Avalanche. Nashville then signed Turris to a six-year, $36-million extension, which will keep him from his scheduled date with free agency next summer.

The trade itself was hardly a surprise, given that the key details being discussed had leaked out on Friday. At the time, we were told the deal was dead, and maybe it was. But it’s one thing for there to be rumours about a deal, and another for actual names to spill out. Once that happened, it felt inevitable that the teams would come back to the table. As it turns out, it didn’t take long.

So who wins? From the Avalanche perspective, there has to be a certain relief at finally getting something done at all. The situation had been dragging for over a year, and GM Joe Sakic had received plenty of criticism over that time for his lack of action. According to reports, his asking price had been high – maybe too high – and he didn’t get any established NHL help in this move. That seems like a disappointment, especially with the Avs off to a strong start. But it may also buy the beleaguered GM some time before anyone can really declare him a winner or loser here.

As for the Predators, this ends up being fairly straightforward: They get better right now. After last year’s near-miss, Nashville is clearly looking to win it all, and are willing to sacrifice a bit of the future to do it (including giving up the best young player in the deal, Samuel Girard). The Turris extension wasn’t cheap, but was a reasonable cap hit that they didn’t have to go to seven or eight years to get. Like most contenders, the Predators are focused on getting better today and will worry about the rest of it down the road.

That brings us to Ottawa — and here’s where things get interesting. On one level, your thoughts about this deal from a Senators’ perspective will come down to whether you see Duchene as a significant upgrade over Turris. Clearly, the Ottawa organization does, since they gave up a decent premium to swap the two players, including a first-round pick (albeit one with top-10 protection). The hockey world would seem to agree; remember, Duchene was viewed as good enough to play for Team Canada at the Olympics just a few years ago. Then again, the numbers suggest the two players are closer than you might think.

The other factor here is financial. The Senators apparently didn’t like their odds of getting a deal done with Turris, for whatever reason. But Duchene will be in the same situation a year from now, and if he really is a better player then he should cost them even more. An extra year of team control is certainly worth something, especially to a budget team like Ottawa. But you wonder if they won’t be right back here this time next year, looking to move a guy they don’t want to pay.

That’s for down the road, though. In the meantime, Duchene and the Senators head to Sweden to face the Avalanche on the weekend, which makes that whole expedition a lot more interesting. The Predators should have Turris in the lineup tomorrow in Columbus. And seeing Duchene go off the market could put extra pressure on teams like the Hurricanes, Islanders and Canadiens who were rumoured to be in on him.

For now, these three teams have given the whole league plenty to chew on. On to the power rankings…

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they’re headed towards Stanley Cup–favourite status.

5. San Jose Sharks (8-5-0, +5 true goals differential*): They’ve won four straight and haven’t allowed more than two goals in six. Next up: a showdown with the Lightning on Wednesday.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets (9-4-1, +10): John Tortorella finding out what his Lightning players were up to in 2004 may be the highlight of the weekend.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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