If there are direct rumors about the Pittsburgh Penguins and Matt Duchene in Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts column then I guess it's time to talk about Matt Duchene and the Penguins.
15. Low-key Matt Duchene possibility: Pittsburgh. The Penguins have circled around him before. Both Glen Sather and Phil Jackson (before he decided to ruin the Knicks) talked about adding new players to championship teams. You prevent a staleness, and if the newcomer is popular, the group rallies around them so they can win, too. Everyone’s frustrated: Colorado GM Joe Sakic, Duchene and agent Pat Brisson. Could Olli Maatta plus more pieces get the Penguins into this?
Back in February Nick Kypreos also spoke about Pittsburgh's interest in Duchene. Where there's smoke...
Alright, let's start with Duchene's value as a player before we get into specific details about a deal. Duchene is a great skater and has good offensive skills. Here's the quick look at him as a player
*There's a reason I used Bonino as the comparison
The possession stuff is a little lower than what his true ability probably is. You have to take into consideration that playing for Colorado (or any other miserable possession team) is going to have a negative impact on that kind of stuff.
Duchene is coming off what I would consider his worst offensive season
The reason I consider this his worst offensive season is because in 2011-12 he had an array of injuries negatively impacting his play. It was a tough year for Colorado. Even Nate MacKinnon only had a 1.66 points per 60 at 5v5. Duchene is ready to move on and I would expect whatever team that acquires him will be rewarded with another year of top line caliber offense. You know there was another guy that fit this bill
One of Duchene's best attributes is his versatility. He can play either center or wing. This is a very useful thing for a team like Pittsburgh. He can ride shotgun with either of the two big dogs or he can fill in for one of them when they eventually miss time to injury. The biggest selling point to me is that he could be Nick Bonino's replacement as the third line center. Because let's face it, outside of a Joe Thornton pipedream and a Nick Bonino overpay what are the Penguins third line center options?
Matt Duchene gives Pittsburgh quite a few options. All good.
Matt Duchene also works out with Sidney Crosby in the offseason. They have skated together in Halifax during the summer and have also trained with Andy O'Brien (Crosby's personal trainer) in the Rocky Mountains.
The one reservation about Duchene is that his contract is only for two more years. Paying the price to acquire him would be a quasi-rental, albeit a very good one.
Anything involving the Colorado Avalanche is interesting because they are one of those teams you want to call over and over again until they eventually make a deal with you. Their front office is considered one of the worst in the sport and the likelihood of them outsmarting another team is small.
Colorado a team in search of defensive help. They are no doubt an organization that will overvalue championships when evaluating a player. Olli Maatta is exactly the kind of player that is going to have higher perceived value than actual value. Colorado is exactly the team to conduct business with.
They also are probably going to be in need of a top four left defenseman
Olli Maatta, as mentioned by me in multiple earlier blogs, is one of Pittsburgh's players that I would use to acquire an impact player. He will obviously one of the main parts of this. Sell high on him. There would obviously have to be more to the trade.
My additional pieces would be the same ones I used in my hypothetical Tyson Barrie trade: Patric Hornqvist and a 1st round pick. It's Colorado. You don't throw your best hand at them right away. Who knows what they'll accept. Bryan Rust might be good enough as a throw-in given all of his big game moments in the playoffs. This is a team that bought high on Blake Comeau after a full year with Evgeni Malkin after all. They just might take the lesser deal. The Ryan O'Reilly trade is evidence enough that they aren't above screwing up a big time trade.
Daniel Sprong is obviously the better target for the Avalanche. That's the best prospect the Penguins have. If the Penguins have to pay that price it is probably something that they can get away with. I like the idea of paying the cost to acquire Duchene rather than giving Nick Bonino a 4M+ contract with term on it. If Pittsburgh's plan was to use Duchene as a third line center I could get down with a trade like this. There is value in properly using futures to invest in a Crosby/Malkin/Kessel led team going for a three peat.
As with any prospect Daniel Sprong is not a sure thing. He had a great QMJHL season this year, but for many (including myself) it was considered a wasted year playing against inferior competition. It's really hard to peg where Sprong is in his development. Here is something to think about when discussing Sprong.
On the other hand, if acquiring Duchene is just to add another luxury piece next to Crosby or Malkin I think a Sprong based deal is overkill and I'd probably look to use that Maatta/Sprong combo elsewhere. The value in a Duchene acquisition is elevating the third line back into a legitimate scoring threat so Pittsburgh can bulldoze teams again.
Now that Marc-Andre Fleury's contract is off the books you have the potential to take on interesting contracts like Duchene. We'll see where this rumor takes us.
Thanks for reading!