With training camp almost here, most NHL players are starting to filter back to their cities and are hitting the ice for optional team practices. Yesterday, the vast majority of the Colorado Avalanche skated together for the first time. While most of their teammates were on the ice, there were three noticeable players absent - Nathan MacKinnon (who is going media events for the league in New York), Nikita Zadorov ( who is still waiting on a new contract) and Matt Duchene.
After a summer where most expected him to be traded, Duchene’s absence has caused a lot of speculation as to whether or not he will report to camp. This morning, two national hockey media members touched on the topic.
Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada was on The Fan 590 in Toronto this morning and he spoke about the evolution of the Duchene trade talks, as well as whether or not the 26-year old forward will report when camp opens next week.
“With Duchene, I think there were times that he got pretty close to being traded, then Colorado pulled back. I know there was a conversation after July 1st, where they told Duchene through his agent Pat Brisson that he should expect the possibility of coming back to Colorado and starting the year there.”
This is a new wrinkle in the story. As recently as last week, Darren Dreger implied that Duchene and his agent were under the impression a trade would happen and that they were upset it hadn’t yet. Friedman says that Duchene was warned he might not be moved and that he shouldn’t expect a quick resolution.
Friedman makes it sound like trades were very close - only to have the Avs stand strong in their negotiations.
“I get the sense there have been some renewed efforts to try to trade him. I think Columbus is very much in there - they were a team that tried to very aggressively close the deal, right around the beginning of July. I know there are a few teams that think Colorado is being especially stubborn on what they wanted.
I think the Avalanche look at it like ‘hey, we made a deal with Ryan O’Reilly that didn’t turn out as great as we’d hoped and we have to make sure we get this right.
I know Colorado has been looking young, young, young. They want young players in exchange for Duchene, guys that were controllable for a long time. I haven’t asked Carolina about it, but I know there have been rumors that they’d potentially talked about Justin Faulk with Colorado. They were concerned about Duchene only having two more years but I don’t think Colorado was that interested in Faulk, they wanted a younger player like Slavin or Hanifin - which Carolina won’t do. That’s what Carolina was looking for.”
Though trade talks stalled earlier this summer, Friedman thinks the Avs are feeling more urgency to get something done. When touching on the topic of Duchene holding out, he sounds as though he feels it won’t come to that.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Avalanche have stepped up their efforts, although people are wondering if that means Duchene won’t report... I think that’s too early to say.”
Along with Friedman, in an article this morning, TSN’s Frank Seravelli also touched on the topic of Duchene holding out.
Now, it seems possible Duchene’s relationship with the Avalanche may not heal with the benefit of a long summer. When asked Tuesday night by TSN whether Duchene planned to report to Avalanche training camp, Duchene’s agent - Pat Brisson of CAA Sports - responded: “All I want to say is, for the moment Matt is skating in Toronto.”
The lack of an answer from his agent might be a little troubling for Avs fans. Combine that with the reports of trade talks picking up and it is really starting to sound like this situation is going to hit a boiling point very soon.