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How Avs can inflate trade value for Duchene, Landeskog

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This post is a part of Avalanche day at PHT…

Much has been made about teams needing to strike gold with high draft picks to successfully complete a rebuild, and it’s difficult to argue otherwise.

Even so, some of the smarter teams also expedited their healing processes by smartly moving guys who simply weren’t part of the future, saving money and/or receiving assets in the process. For example: the Toronto Maple Leafs executed a “pump-and-dump” to rid themselves of Dion Phaneuf in a masterful way, as Jonathan Willis once discussed for Bleacher Report.

It’s quite possible that Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic missed the best possible window in trading Matt Duchene and/or Gabriel Landeskog this summer, when NHL teams were seemingly best situation to take on their cap hits, which are at $6 million (Duchene) or almost $6 million* in Gabriel Landeskog.

Now, it’s plausible that the Avalanche would just be better off keeping both forwards, period. After all, Duchene is 26 and Landeskog is 24. Even if you have some issues with each guy, their cap hits and contracts aren’t going to make Sakic & Co. lose sleep.

Let’s say that the Avalanche still want to trade one or both, though. What are some simple but realistic ways to inflate their value, making them seem more desirable to potential trade suitors? Let’s break it down.

Coin flips going their way

For one thing, it’s easy to imagine each player being more productive in 2017-18 than they were in 2016-17.

This past season was, essentially, the first full campaign where Duchene failed to score at least 20 goals, and he’s been reliable for 55 points when playing in the high 70’s. Whether you look at a faultier stat like plus minus (-34) or a bad luck indicator like on-ice shooting percentage (7 percent), last season was absolutely the worst of Duchene’s career, and Landeskog suffered in similar ways.

By merely playing things out, they’re highly likely to improve their standing in the league. Of course, the Avalanche would be foolish not to massage those numbers, anyway.

Easing the burden

It’s almost stupidly simple, but Sakic should emphasize to head coach Jared Bednar that Duchene and Landeskog should get easier shifts.

Duchene started just 47.1 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone last season, a career-low. He’s also been under 50 percent for three of the last four seasons, with only 2015-16 (58.3, easily his highest rate) being what the doctor ordered.

After being well below 50 percent himself from 2012-13 to 2014-15, Landeskog’s been getting more favorable zone starts, but that Avalanche should lean even heavier in that regard next season if they want to move these players.

Bednar may also want to reduce Landeskog’s penalty kill duties, as he averaged 1:47 per game last season.

(That’s not awful, but hey, you want to massage those numbers, right?)

Shoooooot

Maybe the most disturbing trend is that neither forward is shooting the puck particularly often.

After three straight seasons with at least 200 shots on goal, Duchene only had 160 last season. Landeskog saw a similar drop from 2013-14 and 2014-15 and the past two seasons, where he only fired 169 in each campaign.

Percentage-wise, they seemed more or less on average last season. Volume was the biggest problem.

While you don’t want to micromanage your players to too much of an extreme, Duchene and Landeskog should be shooting more than ever, if anything, on such a bad team. Right?

Split them up at even-strength?

As an esoteric parting thought, TSN’s Travis Yost makes a compelling argument that Duchene and Landeskog simply don’t click together on the same line.

The Avalanche would be wise to give them both a ton of power-play time to drive up their scoring numbers, which means they’d probably be together there. But, perhaps it would be best if they manned their own lines at 5-on-5?

Such a balancing act might be trickier if you wanted to get them a lot of offensive-zone starts. Still, if Bednar wants to impress his bosses, engineering things to get the most out of Duchene and Landeskog couldn’t hurt.

***

Again, it’s a serious question as to whether the Avalanche would even be better off trading Duchene and/or Landeskog. It’s rare to see a team move a prominent player and receive something equivalent back; in many cases, the best returns come in the future via picks.

Still, if the Avalanche want to do it, they might as well go all-in. In the process, they might find better ways to deploy those two even if they never trade them.

* – To be exact, his AAV is about $5.57M.

The Buzzer: Bob blanks Rangers; Sabres drop fourth straight

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Player of the Night: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Bob made 36 saves and recorded his 21st career shutout in helping the Blue Jackets to a 2-0 win over the New York Rangers. The win was the Blue Jackets’ third in a row while New York was blanked for the first time this season.

Highlight of the Night: Bob was on his game:

MISC:

• Despite the loss, Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding for the Rangers in stopping 40 shots.

Artemi Panarin’s power play goal in the third period put the game out of reach:

• New York has dropped two in a row since their six-game winning streak.

Tomas Tatar snapped a 1-1 tie midway through the third period and Dylan Larkin added the insurance tally as the Detroit Red Wings beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1.

• The Sabres, who have now lost four straight, had their chances, but Jimmy Howard stopped 19 of 20 shots and was thankful for one of his posts:

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Columbus 2, New York Rangers 0
Detroit 3, Buffalo 1

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Matthew Tkachuk reportedly suspended one game for inciting line brawl

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The Detroit Red Wings felt like the punishment didn’t fit the crime as Luke Witkowski received an automatic 10-game suspension for returning to the ice during that line brawl with the Calgary Flames. How will they feel about Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk reportedly receiving a one-game suspension for his “crime,” then?

Please note that this news was broken by TSN, while it hasn’t been confirmed by the NHL yet, so the explanation video is also not available.

As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Tkachuk had a lot to do with the brawl, as Witkowski returned to the ice because of his actions. You can also see the moment here:

This marks the second time Tkachuk’s been suspended by the NHL, as he sat two games for this hit on Drew Doughty, which ultimately served as the first chapter in his hate-fest with the Los Angeles Kings:

It’s fitting with such an agitating figure like Tkachuk that the decision stands as polarizing. Some are stunned that the NHL would tack on a one-game suspension after he was ejected for his actions during the 8-2 win for the Red Wings:

Others believe that Tkachuk had it coming.

It wouldn’t be surprising if, meanwhile, the Red Wings believe that it wasn’t nearly sufficient. After the game, Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson reports that Tkachuk said that Witkowski was looking for an excuse to return and that he just gave him “a poke.”

Apparently, this time, Tkachuk also poked the bear and will have to sit one game in timeout as punishment.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL GMs pleased so far with crack down on slashing

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MONTREAL (AP) — If there are any misgivings about the NHL’s crackdown on slashes to the hands, they are not shared by the general managers.

Teams are scoring about half a goal more since officials made the quick tap to the hands or the top of the stick the NHL’s most frequently called minor penalty. The rule was aimed not only at protecting players after some gruesome hand injuries last season, but also to eliminate it as a tactic to cause skilled players to lose control of the puck.

”It’s still a work in progress but in general I think the standard has been very positive,” the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steve Yzerman said after a three-hour meeting of the league’s 31 GMs.

The meeting was held at the former Windsor Hotel, where the NHL was founded in November, 1917. It was one of several events this weekend to mark the league’s centennial.

There were no major decisions made. The GMs and league officials discussed issues in the game like goaltender interference reviews, offside challenges and the crackdown on faceoff violations.

The talks helped set the agenda for a more in-depth, three-day meeting in March, where rule change proposals are usually made.

The slashing crackdown has seen a parade to the penalty box, but the calls look to be here to stay.

”I think people are a little frustrated when you’re getting those penalties and power plays against, but hopefully it smooths out and everybody adjusts to it,” Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. ”I think that’s what everybody is anticipating.

”It’s frustrating going through the process, but hopefully we get to the point where it’s effective and it’s not being done anymore and there are not as many calls.”

Former enforcer George Parros, the new director of player safety, made his first presentation at a GMs meeting and much of it dealt with slashing. He is mainly concerned with violent incidents, like the ugly finger injury suffered by defenseman Marc Methot last season and Johnny Gaudreau‘s hand injury. He said the more common ”love taps” can be handled by the officials on the ice.

”I focused on slashes that are done intentionally, behind the play, and landing on the hands-fingertips area,” Parros said. ”It’s a new standard. Everyone’s getting used to it. If it’s behind the play and it’s intentional and there’s some force to it, then it’s a warning. The variable is force.”

Overall, Parros likes what he’s seen on the ice.

”I gave them an update on numbers and stuff from last year and in general, the trends have been downward,” he said. ”We’ve got less suspensions, less injuries, all things like that. ”The game is being played in a great fashion right now and we hope to continue to do that.”

Colin Campbell, the league’s director of hockey operations, said the rise in scoring may spring from more than just a slashing crackdown.

”I think it’s a reflection of younger players in the league,” he said. ”We’re down to an average of 23 and 24 being our biggest segment of players. I think our players in rush reads and down-low coverage are faster and more talented, but older players are more defensive and have more patience. Younger players make more mistakes, but is there anything wrong with that? We always say if you want more goals you need bad goalies and more mistakes.”

Offside challenges is a contentious issue. When brought in last season, there were complaints that coaches were using them too often and were slowing down the games. This season, if a challenge fails, a minor penalty is called. That has cut down challenges dramatically.

But Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said: ”I think the sentiment is generally positive on putting that minor penalty in and reducing the number of challenges.”

Goaltender interference challenges also were discussed, but pinning down a consistent standard in judging whether a player has interfered with or been pushed into a goalie is elusive.

They were also to discuss making penalties called in overtime last only one minute instead of two to boost 3-on-3 time.

One thing there appeared to be no talk of was trades.

”You never see any of that here. There’s not enough time,” Toronto GM Lou Lamoriello said.

Golden Knights can’t contain excitement in getting a healthy goalie back

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Everyone, you can downgrade the Vegas Golden Knights’ goalie situation from “absurd” to … I don’t know, tenuous?

Eh, we can fuss over the right way to describe the situation any time. For now, the Golden Knights are delighted that Malcolm Subban has been activated from IR, as mentioned on their official website, and boy was it mentioned on Twitter.

The fawning borders on “Your friend who’s fallen into puppy love and is totally overwhelmed, making it both adorable and kind of annoying.”

Aw.

Sheesh, we get i–

*rolls eyes*

At least it all started with this helpful update on who’s healthy and who’s not:

Meanwhile, Dylan Ferguson returns to the WHL.

OK, so let’s take a look at how that big group did so far, remembering that the Golden Knights are still keeping it going with a fairly astounding 11-6-1 record.

Marc-Andre Fleury: 3-1-0, .925 save percentage, suffered what might have been a concussion.

Maxime Lagace: 3-5-1, .864 save percentage, didn’t fall apart altogether despite being wildly inexperienced for the task at hand.

Oscar Dansk: 3-0-0, .946 save percentage. When he got hurt, things went from ridiculous to absurd.

Subban: 2-0-0, .936 save percentage. He’s back, did you hear?

Ferguson: One goal allowed, one save in 9:14 of play.

*takes a breath*

So, yeah. that’s quite the run of netminders. Subban was playing remarkably well before he was injured, and it’s worth remembering that the Golden Knights essentially chose him over Calvin Pickard. Time will tell if that’s the right decision for the franchise, but right now, they’re clearly over the moon just to have a more NHL-appropriate goalie available again.

Sometimes it’s about the simplest things in life, eh?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.