Gabriel Landeskog

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As trade rumors swirl, Landeskog expects Duchene ‘to be here’ for Avs training camp

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Trade speculation involving Matt Duchene has been rampant for months, with Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic recently confirming he’ll continue to listen to trade offers from other clubs.

According to multiple reports, Duchene was absent from a voluntary skate on Tuesday, as players hit the ice for a practice led by Avalanche team captain Gabriel Landeskog.

That has raised the question about whether the 26-year-old center — selected third overall by Colorado in 2009 — will be with the Avalanche when training camp opens next week.

From TSN.ca:

With Duchene languishing near the top of TSN’s Trade Bait board since early last season, the situation has hung over the centre and the Avalanche like a dark cloud.

Now, it seems possible Duchene’s relationship with the Avalanche may not heal with the benefit of a long summer.

When asked Tuesday night by TSN whether Duchene planned to report to Avalanche training camp, Duchene’s agent – Pat Brisson of CAA Sports – responded: “All I want to say is, for the moment Matt is skating in Toronto.”

Duchene did not return a request for comment. He attended a wedding in Vail, Colo., over the weekend, but spent most of the summer training in his hometown of Haliburton, Ont.

Duchene has tried to remain “relaxed” about trade rumors, which have persisted after he struggled offensively last season and the Avalanche suffered an overall embarrassing campaign with just 48 points. Colorado has regressed significantly from that 112-point 2013-14 season, with former coach Patrick Roy calling out the leadership group just a few months before he suddenly resigned.

“I talked a little bit with Dutchy. He’s not here; that’s not a secret,” Landeskog told the Denver Post. “But we’ll have to wait and see. As of right now, he’s a part of the Avalanche organization and we all expect him to be here when training camp starts. I don’t really know what else to tell you right now.”

Duchene trade talks quiet, but Avs will ‘listen to offers’

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To little surprise, not much is going on in the trade market. Just ask Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic.

The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers did just that, and Sakic revealed that he would still consider trading the likes of Matt Duchene … although he didn’t mention him by name.

“I will be listening to offers. Right now it’s quiet on all fronts,” Sakic said. “But I’ll listen to offers on how we can get better. I’ll never name names but I’ll sit there and if something makes sense for the way we want to go, with our team, we’ll really look at that.”

Considering that it’s mid-August, it’s not too surprising that little is happening. One can imagine that several GMs are more interested in finding drinks with umbrellas in them than trying to land Duchene, at least since the Avalanche don’t seem interested in giving him up without some serious haggling.

(And, really, the Avs would be wise to pump up Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog‘s respective trade values, anyway.)

That Denver Post story features a semi-update on Nikita Zadorov. Sakic told Chambers that the two sides agreed that a two-year deal would be best, but the “numbers” aren’t there yet. He didn’t tip his hand about how big the gap was. For what it’s worth, Sakic didn’t sound too worried about the lure of the 2018 Winter Olympics swaying Zadorov to head overseas.

While a lot of the activity circles around what hasn’t happened, the Avalanche did realize that Will Butcher officially won’t sign with them, while Colorado added a college free agent (and former Maple Leafs prospect) Dominic Toninato to their own mix.

At the moment, it doesn’t seem like something big is brewing regarding Duchene and other prominent Avs, but at least Sakic isn’t slamming the door shut on such a possibility.

Avalanche have a ton of flexibility – and questions to answer

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This post is a part of Avalanche day at PHT…

When you take a gander at the Colorado Avalanche’s Cap Friendly page, you may first notice a few things:

  • The terrifying lack of quality defensemen beyond Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Mark Barberio.
  • The terrifying lack of talent to compliment the few quality players beyond those blueliners, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, a handful of young forwards and … that’s about it.
  • The somewhat-comforting fact that the Avalanche don’t have a ton of old players locked up to scary, long-term contracts any longer.

Yes, the Avalanche only have these players locked up for three or more years:

Nathan MacKinnon ($6 million per year through 2022-23, 21 years old)
Landeskog ($5.571M through 2020-21, 24)
Carl Soderberg ($4.75M through 2019-20, 31)
Johnson ($6M through 2022-23, 29)
Barrie ($5.5M through 2019-20,26)

It’s also easy to forget that MacKinnon, Duchene, Landeskog, and quite a few other key Colorado players are all still in the meat of their prime years.

For all the understandable trade rumors regarding Duchene and Landeskog, that Johnson contract might be worth a little shopping if Colorado shows few signs of improvement, even if that would mean draining the defensive talent pool to a Slip-n-Slide size.

Either way, the Avalanche face a refreshingly clean slate … that could also be terrifying if you don’t believe in GM Joe Sakic’s ability to take advantage of these opportunities.

(Read more on Sakic specifically in Under Pressure: Joe Sakic.)

Let’s rattle off some burning questions for this franchise, then:

  1. Echoing that earlier point, is Sakic the right guy to make these choices?
  2. If so, is Jared Bednar the head coach to lead them out of the darkness … or maybe just the one to take the fall for one more “tanking” season?
  3. Semyon Varlamov‘s contract has two more years on it, while backup Jonathan Bernier has one. The Avalanche need to decide how they’ll handle goaltending in the future (a future without Calvin Pickard).
  4. Do you trade Duchene? If so, what kind of package is acceptable after reportedly passing up the likes of Travis Hamonic in previous offers?
  5. Also, do you trade Landeskog? It would probably be wise to drive up the value of both Duchene and Landeskog rather than trading from a position of weakness, at least now that it’s mid-August.
  6. Who else should be considered a core player? Colin Wilson is 27, so you wonder how long he’ll reside in Colorado.
  7. Are the Avalanche doing a good enough job developing prospects? With Tyson Jost looking to make the leap, Mikko Rantanen showing flashes of brilliance, and Cale Makar headlining this past draft class, much of the future will come down to making the most of these players. Some wonder if they haven’t optimized other talents, such as MacKinnon.

***

Some of those questions are really tough, and the wrong answer could set the Avalanche up for more suffering in the future.

For all the current problems and how low things went in 2016-17, at least Sakic & Co. have a lot of freedom to sculpt this team into something respectable, and then competitive. Now they just need to start actually doing just that.

Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done.

Under Pressure: Joe Sakic

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This post is part of Avalanche Day on PHT…

In the six years that Joe Sakic has been a part of the Colorado Avalanche front office the team has qualified for the playoffs just one time. That season proved to be the outlier in what has been a pretty extensive run of mediocrity as the team has taken some significant steps backwards.

Is he under pressure in the sense that his job is in serious jeopardy? It doesn’t seem like it, because if that was the case the Avalanche probably would have already moved on in a different direction.

Under pressure in the sense that he has to start doing something significant in order to get this aimless ship headed in the right direction? Most definitely. Because when you look at the current state of the Avalanche organization it’s hard to fully understand exactly where the team is going and how it intends to get there.

They have had the NHL’s worst defense for two years running and have done little to address it.

They currently only have three defensemen under NHL contract for this season and still don’t know what the future is for Nikita Zadorov.

It almost seems as if they intended to use Matt Duchene as a trade chip to help address that position but he remains on the roster and still seems to be in some sort of limbo when it comes to his future with the team. Even more concerning is that if they do decide to trade him — or perhaps even Gabriel Landeskog or Tyson Barrie — the last time the Avalanche traded one of their core players — Ryan O'Reilly — it turned out to be a complete disaster of a trade.

At the end of the day Sakic has been involved with the Avalanche long enough that this is his team and his organization. His fingerprints are all over it. Coaches have changed. Players have changed.

The results have not. At some point that has to come back to the people responsible for assembling the roster and building the organization.

Which front office inspires least confidence among fans? The Avs

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Over at the Hockey News this week Dom Luszczyszyn published his yearly front office confidence ranking, compiled by polling fans of the (now) 31 NHL teams to see who has their most faith in their team’s management.

And the least confidence.

After compiling more than 1,300 votes, Luszcyszyn found that fans have the least amount of confidence in the management team currently leading the Colorado Avalanche.

This, of course, probably should not be a shock given everything that has happened on the ice for the Avalanche under Joe Sakic’s watch. They have become the worst team in the league, don’t really seem to have much of a long-term plan, and currently only have three defensemen under an NHL contract for this upcoming season, while they might lose one of their top defenders (and the only piece they really have remaining from the now infamous Ryan O'Reilly trade) in Nikita Zadorov to the KHL if they can’t come to terms with him on a new contract. Then there is the fact nobody seems to know what is going to happen with forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog long-term.

Will Butcher, one of their top defense prospects, is also unlikely to sign with the team and is set to be an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15.

So. Yeah. Not a lot of positive things happening there.

The Nashville Predators come in first in the survey, which sounds about right. The Predators were in the Stanley Cup Final this past season and have set themselves up for long-term success with some fantastic contracts to core players.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, coming off of their second straight Stanley Cup victory, are second.

You can read the entire survey here.