Look, I’m on record already: It will be way, way too uncomfortable a situation if Matt Duchene somehow winds up in training camp, still a member of the Colorado Avalanche. He’s going to feel like Oliver Twist, after being paraded around town by Mr. Bumble singing “Boy For Sale.”
In this case, Mr. Bumble (Joe Sakic) is still walking poor Oliver (Duchene) around town, searching for the best offer on a new home for the youngster. We’re almost into July now, and the Avs still don’t have an offer that suits Sakic.
First off, one item: I linked to a story from Newsday yesterday, which said Sakic was presented with the following offer for Duchene at the NHL draft in Chicago: Defenseman Travis Hamonic and the Islanders’ first-round pick in the 2018 draft, but that Sakic said no. The story also said Duchene’s agent, Pat Brisson, is “seriously unhappy with Sakic’s foot-dragging on a deal.”
Sakic was then roasted anew by many on Twitter for turning down such an offer. Even mild-mannered, well-respected TSN reporter Darren Dreger blasted Sakic and the Avs in general for not doing enough to make changes this summer following a 48-point season.
I’ve done some of my own calling around since, and my sources are saying the bulk of that report is untrue. While Hamonic may have been offered, an additional first-round pick was not. I’m also hearing that the characterization of Brisson being seriously unhappy is well overblown. Brisson, though, has not responded to me for requests to comment.
I certainly get it: Fans are frustrated at the lack of a deal. The media assigned to cover this story are frustrated at the lack of a deal. Duchene, Sakic, and other GMs are probably frustrated at the lack of a deal.
But I want to bring up a situation that happened a few years ago in Columbus, a story that has a very tangible connection to the Avs of today. It’s a story of the value of patience.
At the February trade deadline in the 2011-12 NHL season, everybody in the sport expected Rick Nash to be traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets. While a few teams were mentioned, the New York Rangers were said to be the favorites and that a deal would be consummated ex post facto.
Well, the trade did not happen at the deadline. The Blue Jackets didn’t think the offers were good enough for their young first-line forward, so they waited for the price to come up. And they waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally, on July 23, 2012, way after the draft and free agency had already taken place and approximately 43,420 “insider” rumors that had Nash already dealt away, the Blue Jackets and Rangers finally had a deal. For Nash and a couple minor throw-ins, the Jackets got Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and the Rangers’ first-round pick in 2013.
By waiting the Rangers out, the Jackets got a fine return. Dubinsky remains with the team today, an important player on a rising squad. Anisimov played three years in Columbus before going to Chicago in a deal that helped land Brandon Saad (who since has been traded back to Chicago in a deal that landed Artemi Panarin). Tim Erixon never quite panned out, and that 2013 first-round pick turned out to be Marko Dano, who has not been a superstar, but a pretty good player who helped net Saad in that first package deal with Chicago.
All in all, a pretty good return for a star forward who didn’t want to be with his team anymore, which hurt his team’s leverage in trade talks. Fans and media were screaming at Columbus management for months to “make the deal already!”, but their patience finally paid off.
As recounted by Jackets Columbus Dispatch beat writer extraordinaire Aaron Portzline for BSNDenver:
It took almost five months, but felt like five years. But credit to GM Scott Howson and AGM Chris MacFarland for setting their demands — a first-round pick and a major asset (or two) at center ice. The Rangers were one of the only teams that could meet that requirement, so the Jackets essentially waited them out. It would have been easy to cave and just get it over with, because the fan base was agitated. But they took plenty of bullets and did what they thought was best for the organization.
Did you catch one of those names listed by Portzline? That Chris MacFarland, assistant GM in Columbus in 2012, is the same Chris MacFarland, assistant GM of the Avs in 2017. While MacFarland rarely talks to the media, his involvement in this Duchene saga is considerable. He knows from experience, the value of waiting for the right deal. Sooner or later, a team is going to need a still-young, top-six forward with a pretty decent cap number and they are going to keep looking toward the Avs and Duchene.
Now, maybe it’s possible the Avs will never get any offers as good as they might have already gotten for Duchene. Maybe Sakic, MacFarland and Co. in the Avs’ C-Suite really will mess this thing up. Maybe they are forced to keep Duchene going into a new season, and it’s every bit the distraction-filled mess we think it might become.
But maybe, just maybe, a team later this summer, knowing it doesn’t have quite enough offense to compete for the Cup they feel they’re close to getting, calls the Avs and ups their previous offer to get Duchene. Or maybe, Duchene comes back to Colorado, lights it up in the first half and greatly increases his value again. Or maybe, just maybe, Duchene comes back to Denver, lights it up, the Avs become winners again and we all live here happily ever after.
Look, a guy can dream at least.
Yeah, it’s frustrating right now and people just want something done already. But this story could easily still have a happy ending for the Avalanche.
If everybody just stays patient.