We’ve entered an exciting time of the year for a lot of hockey fans. Rumors are swirling as the NHL approaches its trade deadline, and there’s one name that has been circulating around Nashville over the last few weeks. Matt Duchene is widely considered to be on the trading block, and many believe the Predators are a potential suitor.
3 reasons why the Predators are the best fit for Duchene https://t.co/wyGjnA9C2n pic.twitter.com/FS4RFCDWri— theScore NHL (@theScoreNHL) February 1, 2017
Duchene likely a long shot but who knows with David Poile. My piece on the trade deadline and the Predators: https://t.co/34aARK2z7C— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 1, 2017
Clearly this trade makes sense on the surface for Nashville. What team wouldn’t want a 26-year-old All-Star center? Initially it was a nice idea, but there was no report of an imminent trade discussion between the two teams.
Until a day later.
"Rumor: The Avalanche reportedly refused an offer of the Preds involving Samuel Girard...." https://t.co/rG5AJ7PFT0— On The Forecheck (@OnTheForecheck) February 2, 2017
Here’s more. The article stated the Avs had turned down an offer that involved Predators prospect Samuel Girard and Duchene.
Here is the (rough) translation of the article addressing the #Preds offering Samuel Girard to the #Avs for Matt Duchene pic.twitter.com/bPIXBkQl2E— Michael Gallagher (@mpatrickg5) February 2, 2017
The legitimacy of the report is unverified, so it’s inaccurate to assume that these statements are facts, but everyone loves the increased speculation.
For the sake of discussion, how would a trade for Duchene work? The asking price from the Avalanche is naturally very high. Recent reports indicate that the price for Duchene would include an established defensemen, a top prospect, and a #1 pick.
Matt Duchene very much on #Avs trade block. Asking price high: Established young #NHL-ready D-man, 1st round pick, top prospect.— NHL EXPERT PICKS (@NHLexpertpicks) February 3, 2017
The Predators have the pieces to be in the conversation for Duchene. Dante Fabbro and the aforementioned Girard are two highly touted defense prospects in Nashville’s organization. They also have Vladislav Kamenev, the Predators #1 prospect, who recently made his NHL debut. It is unlikely that Poile would part with Kamenev, who is expected to be a 2nd line center in the near future, but Poile is not shy to make big splash trades.
Add to this that Matt Duchene is apparently fond of Nashville...
Duchene talking about how he loves Nashville— Marya (@_marya_k) December 11, 2016
...and that he apparently already has the look nailed down...
... and you’ve got a bonafide TRADE RUMOR.
There’s an obvious need for the Predators going forward at the center position behind Ryan Johansen as Mike Fisher ages and as Mike Ribeiro is healthy scratched (and possibly asking to be traded). Duchene would turn the team’s weakness into one of the league’s best duo’s down the middle.
First, you’ve got Johansen in the traditional 1C role...
RyJo has been an important part of the Predators attack (look no further than last night’s win over the Oilers for evidence), but his strengths are more in playmaking, passing, and occupying attention that allows other guys like Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson to do their thing. This is what a good 1C does and Johansen does it well.
What Duchene adds is a bit different...
Duchene is more of a pure scorer, with a career shooting percentage of 12.5%. He employs a hard, accurate wrist shot along with excellent puck skills and good body positioning to keep defenders and goalies guessing.
Here’s a couple of goal highlights to make you drool.
With Duchene in the fold, Nashville would deploy enough forward firepower to compete with anyone in the league.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A trade within the division is rare in itself and likely bumps the price up even more. It’s hard to imagine Colorado making a deal with Duchene that doesn’t include Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm. The value of Ellis and Ekholm cannot be understated. Nowhere else in the league can you find two top quality defensemen for a combined AAV of $6.25 million.
On top of that, Fabbro and Girard are tracking towards becoming NHL players. Both have excellent skill sets, not to mention Girard’s speed and puck-handling.
Sam Girard is going to be an NHL player. Opens the scoring with a nice assist at today's scrimmage.— Austin Pirkle (@apirkle1) July 2, 2016
Fabbro and Girard being the centerpiece of the deal is a gamble that the Avalanche aren’t likely to take when giving up an All-Star center. The question becomes if the Predators are forced to deal #4 or #14 among other assets to acquire Duchene, would they?
Hard to say. Trading Seth Jones away when he’s your fifth defenseman, especially to fulfill the 1C role, is an easier pill to swallow than being down to just three top flight blueliners in order to fufill the 2C role. In that case, the defense core of the Predators would carry significant question marks, especially with the injury history of P.K. Subban and Roman Josi.
Duchene boosts star power among the forward group, but that comes at a price. With two seasons left on a $6 million per year contract, the Avs center would be looking for a raise while he’s still in his 20’s on his next deal.
Could Nashville fit that in the budget when considering the contracts of Forsberg, Neal, and Johansen’s upcoming contract? Maybe, but it’d definitely be stretching some pockets.
There are pros and cons to this trade that change dramatically depending on the pieces involved. Duchene is an absolutely electric player and will take Nashville’s offense to another level right away. On the other hand, the Predators are playing their best hockey of the season, so another impact trade could see them struggle with chemistry and fall into more inconsistency.
Do the Predators really want to mess with a good thing at this point?
The possibility of Duchene in Nashville hasn’t left the rumor stage, and there’s a good chance it never will. But after Poile’s recent blockbuster transactions, you certainly can’t rule it out.