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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.

Avalanche-Golden Knights stream: NHL Return to Play round-robin game

Avalanche-Golden Knights stream
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NBC’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Saturday’s round-robin matchup between the Avalanche and Golden Knights. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Avalanche-Golden Knights stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Two of the hottest teams so far in these playoffs will face off for a chance to earn the top spot in the West. The winner of this matchup will earn the West’s #1 seed; the loser will be 2.

Through two games, Vegas has scored 11 goals (by eight different players) while Colorado has allowed just one goal. The Golden Knights, even without their regular season leading scorer Max Pacioretty (undisclosed), has scored 11 goals in two round robin games. Seven have come in the third period.

Marc-Andre Fleury is playing in his 14th consecutive postseason, the longest active streak among the top four major professional sports leagues. New Orleans Pelicans guard J.J. Redick has played in 13 straight postseasons; the Pelicans are currently attempting to reach the NBA Playoffs, which begin on August 17.

In Jared Bednar’s first season in charge just over three years ago, Colorado finished last in the NHL with just 48 points. Now they boast Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon, Calder Trophy finalist Cale Makar and an enviable goalie tandem in Pavel Francouz and Philipp Grubauer.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Colorado Avalanche vs. Vegas Golden Knights
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Saturday, August 8, 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Avalanche-Golden Knights stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Standings (tiebreaker is regular-season points percentage)

Colorado Avalanche (2-0-0, 4 points)
Vegas Golden Knights (2-0-0, 4 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-0, 0 points)
Dallas Stars (0-2-0, 0 points)

Western Conference round-robin schedule

Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Golden Knights 4, Stars 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche 4, Stars 0
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights 6, Blues 4 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, 3 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars vs. Blues, 3 p.m. ET – NBC

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

Lightning-Flyers, Avalanche-Golden Knights play for top seeds

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Jon Cooper wants to stop the conversation now: Steven Stamkos isn’t fit to play until he says so.

The coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning ruled out Stamkos for his team’s final round-robin game Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers (8 p.m. EDT, NBC) that will determine the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia won’t have top-line right winger Jakub Voracek, so neither team is at full strength.

”Injuries are unpredictable,” Cooper said of Stamkos. ”As of right now, he’s out indefinitely until he’s not. And I’ll be the person to let you know when that is. But you should know that he’s working his tail off and he’s eager to come back.”

The Lightning beat Washington and Boston without Stamkos and will again turn to Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy as their starting goaltender. Carter Hart starts for Philadelphia, which is also 2-0-0 in round-robin play and will have rookie Joel Farabee on the first line in place of Voracek.

Coach Alain Vigneault would only say Voracek isn’t available to play against Tampa Bay.

”Jake’s got a unique skillset: a veteran guy that’s been around and has played in some big games,” Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen said. ”We’ll welcome him when he comes back and in the meantime keep chugging forward with the guys we have.”

Cooper said the Lightning have been focusing on peaking for Game 1 of their first best-of-seven series, which will be next week. Vigneault’s Flyers have been attempting to balance between winning and tuning up for when their season is on the line.

Tampa Bay-Philadelphia will decide which team faces Montreal after the Canadiens knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round.

”We know they got some top players that have a lot of skill and they got a really good power play,” Hart said of the Lightning

In the Western Conference, the Vegas Golden Knights set the goal of earning the No. 1 seed from the first day of training camp last month. That will be on the line Saturday when they face off against Colorado (3 p.m., NBC). The Golden Knights are going hard for home ice in the West even though there are no fans and all games are being played in Edmonton.

”The higher the seed, the easier path you get,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. ”When I say easy path, you get the lowest-ranked opponent, you get last (line) change, you get the benefit sometimes of a home dressing room over a visitor dressing room. There’s small benefits to it. I like the fact that our group thinks it’s important and we’ve played that way and prepared that way.”

Vegas isn’t 100% healthy yet with winger Max Pacioretty still not ready to play. DeBoer continues to say Pacioretty is close, though he’ll have to quarantine in Edmonton and produce four negative coronavirus test results before being eligible to practice or play.

The Golden Knights came back from deficits to beat Dallas and St. Louis, and look like a buzzsaw no matter who’s in goal between Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner. The Avalanche similarly have a two-headed goaltending monster in Phillip Grubauer and Pavel Francouz, and coach Jared Bednar isn’t eager to tip his hand on which one he’ll go with in the next round.

The Avalanche are also healthy. Grubauer, Francouz, captain Gabriel Landeskog, winger Mikko Rantanen and star rookie defenseman Cale Makar all missed time with injuries during the season.

With the whole crew together, Colorado is undefeated in two round-robin games and living up to the expectations set internally to get the top seed.

”We want to try and get home ice,” Bednar said. ”It’s been a goal of ours and we want it and our guys are playing like they want it. I like the focus and the intensity from our group at this point. Hopefully it takes even another step here for Vegas so we know that we’re good to go coming out of it.”

Kraken hire Everett Fitzhugh as club’s first broadcaster

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken have hired Everett Fitzhugh as the club’s first broadcaster, the team announced Friday.

Fitzhugh is believed to be the first Black team broadcaster hired by an NHL franchise. He has spent the past five seasons as the director of media relations and broadcasting for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. Fitzhugh served as the play-by-play broadcaster for the club.

”As someone who’s worked in hockey for over a decade and who has a long-held passion for broadcasting hockey, to be named a part of the broadcast and content team for a brand-new NHL franchise – particularly one with an organization as strong as the Kraken – is a dream come true,” Fitzhugh said in a statement. ”Getting to the NHL has always been my goal.”

Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said Fitzhugh came highly recommended by those the team consulted with in making the hire. Fitzhugh’s exact role will be determined at a later date.

Fitzhugh was one of three front-office hires announced by the team. Seattle also hired Jonny Greco as the senior vice president of live entertainment and game presentation, and Lamont Buford will serve as vice president of game presentation.

The Wraparound: First Round seeding up for grabs Saturday

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 NHL Return to Play. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

• The NHL Bubble Wrap has your roundup of Friday’s wild postseason action.

• Friday was Elimination Day as the Oilers, Penguins, Predators, Panthers, and Wild all exited the postseason.

NHL GAMES TODAY

Round-robin: Avalanche vs. Golden Knights, 3 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream: Two of the hottest teams so far in these playoffs will face off for a chance to earn the top spot in the West. The winner of this matchup will earn the West’s #1 seed; the loser will be #2. Through two games, Vegas has scored 11 goals (by eight different players) while Colorado has allowed just one goal. Even without their regular season leading scorer Max Pacioretty (undisclosed), the Golden Knights have scored 11 goals in two round robin games. Seven have come in the third period. The Avs have been spreading the love on offense. Through two round robin games, each of Colorado’s six goals have been scored by a different player – two from defensemen (Cale Makar and Ryan Graves) and four from players in their first season with the Avalanche.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Round-robin: Flyers vs. Lightning, 8 p.m. ET, NBC; livestreamThe winner of this game will become the #1 seed in the East; the loser will be the second seed. Tampa, owner of the league’s best regular season offense (3.47 goals/game) has scored five goals in its first two games… and they’re without Steven Stamkos, who will not play against the Flyers after missing Tampa’s first two round robin games with a lower-body injury. He has been ruled out indefinitely. Carter Hart, who will turn 22 on Thursday, is expected to start after Brian Elliott got the nod in Philly’s last game vs Washington. Hart stopped 34 of 35 shots in their 4-1 win vs Boston last Sunday in his postseason debut, becoming the youngest Flyers goalie to win a playoff game.

Round-robin standings (ties broken by regular-season points percentage)

EAST
Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)
Flyers (2-0-0, 4 points)
Capitals (0-1-1, 1 point)
Bruins (0-2-0, 0 points)

WEST
Avalanche (2-0-0, 4 points)
Golden Knights (2-0-0, 4 points)
Blues (0-2-0, 0 points)
Stars (0-2-0, 0 points)

SUNDAY‘S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Round-robin: Bruins vs. Capitals, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Round-robin: Stars vs. Blues, 3 p.m. ET – NBC
Game 5: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN