Matt Duchene

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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.

Poll: Will the Avalanche finish with the NHL’s worst record again?

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The 2016-17 season was a disastrous one for the Colorado Avalanche pretty much across the board.

They not only ended up missing the playoffs for the third year in a row and the sixth time in the past seven years, they ended up finishing with the NHL’s worst record, recording just 48 points. More than 20 behind the NHL’s second-worst team. Those 48 points ended up being the worst point total for any team in an 82-game season (including the tank-for-McDavid Buffalo Sabres teams) since the NHL went to the three-point game format at the start of the 2005-06 season. The only teams that finished with a worse point total were teams during the lockout shortened 48-game season in 2013.

The only offseason additions the team has made this season have been to bring in goalie Jonathan Bernier, buy a huge lottery ticket in Nail Yakupov, and make a decent trade for Colin Wilson. They also have prized prospect Tyson Jost ready to make the leap to the big leagues on a permanent basis, but they will also still probably lose Matt Duchene at some point to a trade. They also still have a haphazardly pieced together defense that isn’t particularly strong.

Is that enough to make up 20 points in the standings to get out of the cellar?

But Adam, you’re probably saying, there is an expansion team in the NHL this season and they might be contenders for the worst record in the NHL. And they certainly could be!

But keep in mind that the NHL’s past nine expansion teams finished with an average of 57 points in their first season, including five that finished with at least 65.

 

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.

Looking to make the leap: Tyson Jost

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This post is part of Avalanche Day on PHT…

The past few years have been extremely difficult for the Colorado Avalanche. The mirage that was the 2013-14 season has faded as the team has become one of the worst in the NHL while the future of its best players remains very much in doubt.

If there is any sign of hope on the horizon it would probably be the potential that recent first-round draft picks Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost bring to the table.

The Avalanche already got a taste of what Rantanen is capable of this past season when he scored 20 goals in 75 games in his first season taste of NHL action.

This year it is probably going to be Jost’s turn to get that opportunity.

The No. 10 overall pick in 2016, Jost is coming off of a huge season for the University of North Dakota and a brief six-game cup of coffee with the Avalanche that saw him score his first NHL goal. He is going to be counted on for a lot more than that this season, and he was already taking on a bit of a leadership role at the team’s development camp this summer as he prepares to make the full-time jump to the NHL.

He talked about all of that earlier this summer at the development camp, via the Denver Post.

“It’s pretty straightforward: Next year my goal is to be in the NHL (full-time) and make an impact with the Avs and help them move in the right direction,” Jost said Tuesday at the start of the three-day camp. “I’ve been in Denver for over a month and a half now, getting used to the city and looking to be more like a pro and get ready for the NHL. I think the development camp is a great step for that. It’s an awesome program here. They know what they’re doing, and it’s great to be out on the ice. You can never get too ahead of the game, so I think it’s good for me.”

It seems like a given that he is going to be in the NHL this season, and they could use all of the extra help they can get up front, especially if they end up finally going through with a Matt Duchene trade because somebody is going to need to step up and replace that offense.

Avalanche fans haven’t had a lot to be optimistic about the past couple of years, but Jost is an exciting young player that should provide a little bit of hope.