It’s only been two seasons since Duclair potted 20 goals during his first full NHL campaign with the Arizona Coyotes. He was part of a bright future up front for the franchise along with Max Domi. Now both are gone with Domi being deal to Montreal last month.
Duclair split time between the AHL and NHL 2016-17 and then played 33 games with the Coyotes last season before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks did not extend him a qualifying offer in June, thereby making him an unrestricted free agent. Since that 20-goal campaign, the 22-year-old forward has scored 16 times in 114 games. It would have cost the team $1.2 million for the qualifying offer, but general manager Stan Bowman had apparently seen enough.
After arriving in Chicago and admitting he needed a change of scenery, Duclair went from skating on the Blackhawks’ top line to seeing his minutes cut to being in Joel Quenneville’s dog house and watching from the press box.
“When you’re struggling as a team, you look at yourself individually,” Duclair said via the Chicago Tribune in February. “You ask yourself what you can do better to help the team. I don’t think I’ve been consistent enough, and that’s why my ice time has started diminishing. You have to really earn it.”
Duclair has identified the issue, it’s just a matter of correcting it — something the Blue Jackets are hoping he’s successful at doing in order to make this gamble worth it.