Matt Duchene Trade Analyzed

At the beginning of the 2017-18 season, expectations were high for the Nashville Predators and the Ottawa Senators. The Predators were just coming off of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final and the Senators were one goal away from meeting them there, taking the Pittsburgh Penguins to game seven in the Eastern Conference Final. The Colorado Avalanche, on the other hand, were coming off of their worst finish in franchise history with just 48 points.

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With the Senators and Predators looking for the missing pieces on their rosters to bolster their lineups and the Avalanche looking to retool their own, the trio of teams managed to pull off a blockbuster trade that sent long-time Av Matt Duchene to Ottawa.

Matt Duchene #95, Ottawa Senators
Matt Duchene, former Ottawa Senator – February 3, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since the massive deal, here’s how the trade has played out for the teams and pieces involved.

The Trade

The three-way trade came after 18 months of speculation and rumours surrounding Duchene, who requested a trade from the organization nearly a year prior. Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic told reporters throughout the entire process that he wouldn’t take less than Duchene was worth and proved that with the return from his top centreman.

Related: Duchene Finally Traded

After the trade, Duchene explained his reasoning behind asking for the move from the team that drafted him to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, “I wanted to play playoff hockey. I’ve got eight playoff games to my name right now and that’s not where I want to be at this point of my career. I only get one shot at this. I get to play this game for however long my body lets me play it and I felt I wanted to let Joe know it was time to move on.” (From: “Matt Duchene thrilled at getting a chance to win with Senators” – Ottawa Sun – 11/06/2017).

Here are the full details of the trade from Nov. 5, 2017:

To OTT: Centreman Matt Duchene

To NSH: Centreman Kyle Turris

To COL: Conditional first-round pick (OTT), 2019 third-round pick (OTT), Shane Bowers and Andrew Hammond from Ottawa; 2018 second-round pick (NSH), Samuel Girard and Vladislav Kamenev from Nashville

Senators Temporarily Get Their Number One Centre in Duchene

Duchene had high hopes when he arrived in Ottawa and so did the team. This was a team that took Sidney Crosby and the Penguins to not one, but two overtimes in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. The Penguins went on to win the Cup for the second year in a row and the Senators felt ready. Their time was now.

Matt Duchene #95, Ottawa Senators
Matt Duchene #95, former Ottawa Senator – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Upon his arrival, the Senators were 6-3-5 and while that wasn’t the best start to the season, they were getting points in the majority of their games, which is important. Duchene was ready to get started, “To be here with this team that I believe in a lot already it’s very special. There’s going to be an adjustment period. I just want to bring my best to this team and hopefully be part of a long playoff run.” (From: “Matt Duchene thrilled at getting a chance to win with Senators” – Ottawa Sun – 11/06/2017).

As optimistic as Duchene and the Senators were, it didn’t pan out on the ice for them. The team finished the season 28-43-11 and 30th in the league. For Duchene, his hope for playoff hockey was lost in his first season in Ottawa. To make matters worse, the Avalanche earned the final wild-card spot facing the Predators in Round 1, although they lost the series, 4-2.

The 2017-18 season was so bad for the Senators that the team entered a rebuild, sending away core pieces like captain Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks, Mark Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights and after just 15 months in Ottawa – Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus Blue Jackets' Matt Duchene
Former Columbus Blue Jacket Matt Duchene (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Individually, Duchene was solid for Ottawa. After joining the team, he had 49 points in 63 games to close out the season. In the 2018-19 season, he played 50 games for the Senators prior to the trade, collecting a remarkable 27 goals and 31 assists for 58 points. Through his time with the Sens, he played 118 games and finished with 107 points.

Duchene Sent to Blue Jackets for Abramov, Davidsson, Pick

Despite his performance, the Senators faltered. Prior to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline, he was sent to the Blue Jackets for Vitaly Abramov, Jonathan Davidsson and a first-round pick in 2019. That pick was used to select Finnish defenseman Lassi Thomson.

Some may already know Abramov. The 20-year-old player spent two seasons and part of a third just over the provincial border with the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques. His time there is what makes him stand out as a prospect, collecting 223 points in 145 games.

Taken 65th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, he projects to be a top-six forward in the NHL. While some worry about his size – he’s 5-foot-9, 172 pounds – and his play without the puck, but he’s still very young and will improve.

Vitali Abramov Ottawa Senators
Vitali Abramov, Ottawa Senators 2019 development camp (Courtesy Ottawa Senators)

Davidsson looks like he could be the better prospect. He played well in the SHL against men and is just starting to get his feet wet in the North American game. He’s looked good so far, he could turn out to be a solid NHLer.

Finally, Thomson finished up the 2018-19 season in the WHL as a finalist for Rookie of the Year and was named to a WHL Western Conference Second Team All-Star. In 63 games, he had 17 goals and 24 assists for 41 points. He’s currently playing in Liiga, but it might not be too long before he’s back in Canada.

Meanwhile, Duchene got the playoff hockey he dreamed of. The Blue Jackets made the postseason and even swept the NHL’s best team – the Tampa Bay Lightning. Duchene kept his hot season going, collecting five goals, five assists and 10 points in 10 playoff games. In the 2019 offseason, Duchene signed with a familiar team – the Predators – to a seven-year, $56-million contract.

Turris Never Found His Footing in Nashville

A favourite of Senators fans, Kyle Turris went from a team that almost went to the Final in 2017-18 to the team that did. The biggest difference is that the Predators remained a contender after the trade. They won the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team in the regular season, finishing 53-18-11 with 117 points.

Kyle Turris Nashville Predators
Kyle Turris, former Nashville Predator (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Turris found being traded after the start of the season to be “a difficult transition,” but collected 13 goals and 42 points in 63 games after being sent to Music City. He added 17 power-play points (PPP) post-trade, tying his career-high, on top of his four PPPs with the Senators. The former third-overall pick was also a plus-22 with the Predators, after starting the year a minus-three in Ottawa.

As soon as the trade was complete, Turris signed a six-year extension worth $6 million annually, and many presumed that the dollar amount was his reason for being sent out of Ottawa. That includes Turris. After the trade, the centreman told reporters, “It’s tough because I think management did want to sign me, but I think that the owner didn’t. And that was his decision.”

After he signed, however, Turris struggled to justify his pricy extension, posting just 33 and 22 points over the next two seasons. Due to an inclement cap crunch, the Predators decided to buy out the remaining four years of his contract.

As a free agent, Turris would sign a two-year show-me deal with the Edmonton Oilers, giving the team valuable forward depth. So, while things didn’t work out in Nashville, he will get a new chance to prove that he is still a top-flight NHL forward in Edmonton.

Colorado Gets the Haul They Were Waiting For

Most organizations would be in shambles after trading away a top-line centreman. That hasn’t been the case for the Avalanche, though. The Avs went from the bottom of the NHL to the playoffs and are once again a team in the hunt. A few months after the trade, 2019-20 MVP finalist MacKinnon provided his thoughts on the transaction.

Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon
The Colorado Avalanche and star Nathan MacKinnon are on an upward trend (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“It did a lot. There’s nothing wrong with Dutchy wanting to leave. I think it’s fair. He’s been eight, nine years in this league, and it wasn’t like a crazy breakup or anything. He went about it really good this season. But obviously, we knew he wanted to leave. Now we have everybody here that wants to be here, which is great.

He continues, “I think we’re on our way. If Dutchy was here, I’d think we’d be in a good spot as well. He’s a really good player and obviously, it’s nice to get [defenceman Samuel Girard, acquired in the Duchene deal] on the back end. He’s a great defenceman.”

MacKinnon calls out the solid acquisition of Girard, but the Avalanche got a whole lot more than just the former first-rounder.

Shane Bowers

Shane Bowers was the Senators’ 28th overall pick in 2017. They didn’t hold on to him for very long and Avalanche fans should be very happy about that. The season of the trade, Bowers played for Boston University along with Senators 2018 fourth-overall pick Brady Tkachuk.

Shane Bowers Colorado Avalanche
Shane Bowers looks to be a promising prospect for the Avalanche (courtesy United States Hockey League)

After being named to the Hockey East’s all-rookie team in his freshman year, Bowers had no intention of slowing down. His sophomore season saw the prospect collect 17 goals in 40 games, leading all 18-year-olds in scoring and tying for fourth in goals among players under 21. In comparison to Tkachuk, Bowers had nine more goals and one more point to finish the year.

Bowers has now made the jump to the AHL, where he’ll be hoping to not stay for long. He’s faced a learning curve, but if he can get used to the pace of the league, it’s not out of the question to see him make the jump to the Avs lineup next season.

Andrew Hammond

After leading the Senators through a historic run in the 2014-15 season, there hasn’t been much else of note for the goaltender. That run saw the “Hamburgler” go 10-1-1 to start his career, and Hammond became the second goalie in history to let in two or fewer goals in his first 12 starts. He went 20-1-2 with the Senators that year and led them to a playoff spot after injuries to Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner.

After the trade, Hammond only played in one regular-season game for the Avalanche, a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and then was forced into three playoff games against the Predators. He came into one after an injury to Semyon Varlamov, stopping all eight shots he faced. He won the next start 2-1, making 44 saves before getting blown out 5-0 the following game.

Hammond walked into free agency and picked up a one-year deal with the Minnesota Wild for $650,000, and then the Buffalo Sabres, playing in the AHL both seasons. He is currently unsigned for the 2020-21 season.

Samuel Girard

Sam Girard has had the biggest impact early on for the Avalanche. On a defensive corps that didn’t have much behind Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie (since traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs), Girard has worked his way onto the top pairing for the Avs. A top pairing that the Denver Post’s Mike Chamber’s calls a perfect defensive pairing, a big, in-your-face defenseman and a small, skilled, puck-moving defenseman. (From: “Chambers: Erik Johnson and Sam Girard are a perfect pairing for the Avalanche” – Denver Post – 10/07/18).

Colorado Avalanche's Samuel Girard
Colorado Avalanche’s Samuel Girard (AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)

Speaking to Chambers, Johnson raves about Girard’s ability, “He’s so skilled, so smart. You maybe worry about a guy that size playing D but he’s so smart and elusive. He knows when the forecheck is coming. He knows when to dip out of traffic when he’s in trouble. He’s got a really good head on his shoulders.” (From: “Chambers: Erik Johnson and Sam Girard are a perfect pairing for the Avalanche” – Denver Post – 10/07/18).

Girard looks to be a fixture on the Avalanche’s top pair for years to come. He’s secured his stop on the top pair and has become one of the best pieces involved in this trade. As the Roberval, Quebec native continues to improve and enter his prime, Girard will keep paying off for Colorado.

Vladislav Kamenev

Like Hammond, Vladislav Kamenev’s time with the Avalanche hasn’t gone exactly to plan. In his first game with his new team, he took a hit from Brooks Orpik, breaking his arm. He returned later in the season, playing just two more games, recording no points in that season. He faced another season-ending injury in 2018-19. Not an ideal start .

Vladislav Kamenev Colorado Avalanche
Vladislav Kamenev, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Other than the injuries, Kamenev hasn’t really been able to settle in anywhere for the past few seasons. Since 2015, the Russian centre has played in games for the Milwaukee Admirals, San Antonio Rampage, Colorado Eagles, Predators and Avalanche. He currently is playing with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.

The Picks

The first-round conditional pick from Ottawa in this trade became a 2019 pick when the Senators drafted Brady Tkachuk fourth overall in 2018. The condition was that the Sens could either send their 2018 or 2019 pick to Colorado. By using the pick on the feisty winger, the pick shifted to 2019, where they also had the Senators third-round pick.

The first-rounder ended up being fourth-overall, and the Avalanche chose Bowen Byram. He’s a great skater with an ability to surprise opposing players with his speed. His vision allows him to make big passing plays, and he isn’t afraid to play physically. He handles the puck very well and has a quick, hard shot that can fool goaltenders.

Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche
Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Byram looks to be a top-two NHL defender with the potential to be a number one. He’ll lead the break out from his end, quarterback the power play and won’t be afraid to jump up in the rush. It’s very likely that Byram ends up being the biggest part of this entire deal. The third-round pick was used to select Matthew Steinburg, a promising centre from St. Andrew’s College.

Nashville’s second-rounder in 2018 was actually traded to the Penguins for third and fifth-round picks (64th and 146th) in the 2018 draft. They selected goaltender Justus Annunen and defender Danilla Zhuravlyov with those two picks.

Annunen played for Team Finland at the 2018 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, recording a 2.00 goals against average and a .914 save percentage en route to capturing the gold medal. Zhuravlyov also played in that championship for Team Russia as an assistant captain, collecting five assists through five games. That tied for second on the team for points, was first in assists and led the team’s defenders in points. While both prospects are currently playing hockey in their respective countries, they look promising so far for the Avalanche.

Who Is Winning the Trade so Far?

It’s hard not to view the Avalanche as the clear-cut winners. Even the day after the trade, they seemed to come out on top. After the transaction, the Senators and Avs have seemed to switch places in the league. The Sens fell in the standings, finishing second-to-last and have now begun a rebuild while Colorado made the playoffs after finishing dead last in the NHL the year before. They have some deadly players and look set up for years to come.

Colorado Avalanche Executive Vice President Joe Sakic
Joe Sakic waited for the right trade and it paid off (Photo by RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Sakic’s patience in this trade paid off big-time and it will continue to pay off for the foreseeable future. While Girard has made an immediate impact, Kamenev is still coming into his own, and Bowers is at least a year away from the NHL. Byram is one of the best prospects in the league right now, and fans should be extremely excited about him.

Nashville, on the other hand, remains a team very similar to before. They are still a threat in the league, they have arguably the best defensive unit in the NHL and Girard likely wouldn’t have factored into that mix as well as he does in Colorado.

Related: The NHL’s Top 5 Defenses

However, considering that Turris was bought out, that makes the loss of assets sting a bit more. Also, the fact that the Predators ended up with Duchene, in the end, is also a strange turn in this large transaction.

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