Matt Duchene has spoken.
The long-time Avalanche fan-turned-star has seemingly been on the trading block for the last few years.
Nothing has come of it until this summer, when the musings seemed to shift from barely a maybe to ‘not if, but when’. The idea that Duchene would no longer be a member of the Colorado Avalanche was finally, after years of half-baked speculation, one that fans started to get used to.
Despite the growing possibility of a move, though, nothing happened for yet another trade season. The offseason came and went, and Duchene remained on the roster - failing to get moved during the expansion draft frenzy, the entry draft, free agency, and the weeks leading up to training camp.
As camp grew closer by the day, some wondered whether or not the long-time team center would even show up.
Contractually, he’s obligated to attend mandatory team events (including training camp and preseason), but that certainly hasn’t stopped skaters from sitting out in the past. After all, few can forget the Jonathan Drouin situation in Tampa Bay just two years ago, where the young French Canadian prospect refused to report to the AHL in an attempt to pull the trigger on a move elsewhere.
When Thursday rolled around, Duchene showed up in Denver, alleviating at least some fears.
While the 25-year-old is at camp, though, he’s made it clear - he’s only there because he absolutely has to be. The trade, which seems like a foregone conclusion at this point, is what he’s expecting sooner rather than later.
Duchene update: Plan is to attend camp, but sources say both sides remain committed to trade as best case and will continue to work on it.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) September 14, 2017
Duchene wouldn’t take questions on the situation, simply stating that he’s here for his teammates and to honor his contract.
That’s a pretty harsh statement for a guy who wants things to work out. At this point, it’s safe to assume that Duchene expects to be traded, is a bit aggravated that he’s been strung along all summer, and doesn’t exactly have much of a desire to see things culminate in anything BUT his move out of the system.
For a lot of fans, that’s frustrating - and that’s totally understandable.
No one wants to pay money to see a team that’s emotionally checked out and hoping to play quite literally anywhere else, and that’s exactly what they’ll be doing if Duchene remains on the team into the start of the regular season. Even if he continues to give it his all (which, given his desire to honor his contract, it’s hard to imagine he won’t), there’s a certain level of compete that gets stripped away when you just don’t want to be there anymore.
From the other perspective, though, it’s hard to blame Duchene for how he feels.
After year upon year of trade rumors, this summer truly seemed like the team wanted to pull the trigger on something to give the team - and Duchene - a fresh start.
Mentally preparing oneself for a move away from the only team they’ve ever known is hard, and not knowing how it’s going to happen - or when, or even if - can only make that harder. Add in how dismal the last two seasons have been for Colorado as a group, and it’s likely that Duchene has simply hit his breaking point; if the team is going to shop him around, just let him go.
It remains to be seen how general manager Joe Sakic is going to handle the situation moving forward.
He’s got a very valuable asset who wants to go as fast as he can, and teams that are undoubtedly interested. He’s lost any upper hand he ever had with the need to move his player, of course, but the cost-benefit to holding out for a better deal in relation to how it’s going to damage Duchene’s value with lackluster play is a tricky field he may not want to navigate.
It’s not the team’s most precarious situation at the moment - after all, defenseman Nikita Zadorov isn’t at training camp at all, and remains unsigned at the writing of this post - but it’s not a great way to kick off the year.