Trade deadline day is fast approaching and the rumors are already starting to heat up. Though its been reported that the Blackhawks are unlikely to make any major moves at this year’s deadline, things can change quickly if the right offer presents itself.
I’ve already looked over some of the more probable options for the Blackhawks but one name that keeps sticking out to me is Matt Duchene. The Colorado Avalanche are spiraling down the standings and are known to be shopping some of their top forwards. Bringing in a forward of Duchene’s caliber would instantly make the Blackhawks much more dangerous and would be one of the most exciting possible things to happen.
Before I continue, it is important to mention how unlikely such a deal would take place. Deals involving big names such as Duchene are hard to make in the NHL nowadays (what with the salary cap and all) and the Hawks troubling cap situation only compounds the issue. It isn’t even a 100 percent certainty that the Avalanche will move Duchene, as holding him until the NHL Draft or keeping him on the team is also a possibility. However, it’s still interesting to take a look at if there is a possible way the Blackhawks could pull off such a feat, even if it’s unlikely.
Drafted by the Avalanche with the third overall pick all the way back in 2009, Duchene has consistently been a solid forward for Colorado. Scoring 55 points in his rookie season, Duchene followed that up with a 67-point season in his sophomore year. Then after a bit of a down year, Duchene tallied 113 points in 118 games across his next two seasons.
Since then, Duchene has been averaging around 60 points a season while playing a key role in the Avalanche’s offense. Last year saw him score 30 goals for the first time in his career and lead the team both in goals and total points. This season, Duchene is once again scoring at a 60-point pace with 32 points in 44 games.
But I don’t really need to convince you that Duchene is good. He’s not a superstar but he is a very talented forward. Adding him to the Blackhawks’ offensive group would give the Blackhawks one of the most dangerous forward groups in the league while also opening up many new line combinations.
As a natural center, Duchene could slide onto the third line behind Jonathan Toews and Artem Anisimov, creating an immensely deep (and skilled) top-nine with Marcus Kruger centering a shutdown, defensive fourth line. Or, as a left-winger, Duchene could join Toews on the first line and help spark some more offense from the top-six. Either way, Duchene’s presence in the lineup would only benefit to the Blackhawks offense.
However, the tricky part would be working out a trade that both teams would like and could afford. Now at the bottom of the standings, the Avalanche aren’t looking for any short-term adds and are more in the market for younger players. Not to mention, their defense is extremely weak and Colorado would most likely want some kind of defenseman back in return for their star center.
The Blackhawks wouldn’t be looking to get rid of any of their core players but they have plenty of young defenseman that the Avs might be interested in. Gustav Forsling and Ville Pokka (20 and 22 years old respectively) would draw interest from any team and could be the foundation to a potential deal.
But in addition to the Blackhawks defensive prospects, Chicago also has plenty of forward prospects that can be dealt in exchange for Duchene. Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman, and Vinnie Hinostroza are already making an impact in the NHL and could immediately slide into the Colorado Avalanche’s lineup. They’re young enough where they fit in with the Avs needs and have the potential to be good players for Colorado for a while. And don’t forget about the guys in the minors, as Tyler Motte is a nice prospect while Alex DeBrincat has been tearing it up in the junior leagues. Combine all these players with the Hawks having a first-round pick to potentially give up and you get a lot of potential trade options that the Avalanche might have interest in.
But what about the salary cap? As what is probably the biggest hurdle, the Blackhawks already have a tight salary situation and it’d be hard to add Duchene’s $6 million cap hit. And it’s not even like the Blackhawks would have to clear space for the rest of the season. Since Duchene’s deal lasts for two more seasons after this year, the Blackhawks would have to make sure that they would be able to squeeze him under the cap for the next few years, too.
So if the Blackhawks really wanted to go for it this season and trade for Duchene, would it be possible? The way I look at it, there is one realistic scenario and two unlikely possibilities that could create enough room for Duchene.
As one of the long-shot options, the Blackhawks would free up enough room by trading Brent Seabrook to the Colorado Avalanche. Since Seabrook makes $6.875 million per year, the Blackhawks would actually gain a bit of cap space if they managed to pull off such a deal. However, I think we all know that this is pretty unrealistic and unlikely to actually happen. Yes, the Avalanche are looking for a defenseman but Seabrook has been declining for years now. At 31 years old, Seabrook isn’t a very attractive option, especially when he carries a $6.875 cap hit for the next seven years. The Avalanche could find much better deals from other teams that don’t involve the Avs having to take on a player like Seabrook.
A bit more plausible than trading Seabrook but still unlikely is the Blackhawks shipping Kruger to the Avalanche as part of a Duchene package. At 26 years old, Kruger is a great defensive-center who could be a piece of the trade. Trading Kruger would free up a little over $3 million in salary cap space for the Hawks and would leave a hole in the lineup for Duchene to fill. However, for reasons a bit similar to Seabrook, the Avalanche wouldn’t want to acquire Kruger. They don’t need a bottom-six center making over $3 million and Colorado could easily find another trading partner that could give them a better deal.
But now for the reasonable option. The Avalanche could retain most of Duchene’s salary to allow Chicago to fit him under their cap. Every team is allowed to retain a maximum of 50% of a player’s cap hit when trading him and if Colorado did this, Duchene would only carry a much more manageable $3 million cap instead of his usual $6 million cap hit. If the Avalanche did this, Chicago would have to pay a higher price to acquire Duchene but it’s not unprecedented. The Arizona Coyotes did a very similar thing when they traded defenseman Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers, retaining 50% of his salary so the Rangers could fit him under their cap.
While it may seem like it would be impossible for the Blackhawks to acquire Matt Duchene, there are still some unlikely options that aren’t completely out of the picture. If the Blackhawks really want to make a run at a Cup this season, adding Duchene at the deadline would easily go a long way towards accomplishing that goal and it would be fun imagining a way that they could do that.