Exactly one year ago, on November 5th, the Colorado Avalanche made the biggest move of the Joe Sakic General Manager era.
In one of the biggest trade maneuvers of the last decade, Sakic pulled the trigger on a three-team trade with the Nashville Predators and the Ottawa Senators, sending Matt Duchene to the Sens and Kyle Turris to Nashville in exchange for seven assets.
Duchene recently made his official homecoming to Colorado with mixed feelings all-around. But now, a year to the day after his tenure with the team ended, it’s time to look back at the trade that was.
Rumors had been swirling for months, but it didn’t seem real when the Avalanche finally pulled the trigger on the exchange.
Matt Duchene exiting the ice in the middle of the first period at the Barclays Center while playing against the New York Islanders is an image that won’t be soon forgotten. The wait to learn the return was excruciating, to boot; it wasn’t announced until intermission on the Altitude game broadcast.
When all was said and done, though, it felt like a relief. After rumors and interviews and speculation, topped off with a mind-bendingly poor season, the move had finally been made.
There wasn’t a main piece at the time of the deal, but Sam Girard has quickly become an integral part of the Avalanche and a big reason why the team has taken a step forward.
There was a question if Girard, an undersized blue liner with CHL eligibility left last season, would stick in the NHL or get sent back to Shawinigan in the QMJHL.
The key piece of the Nashville return stepped onto the ice in Sweden during the NHL Global Series, though, and it was immediately clear he was here to stay.
Today, Girard is on the first pair with Erik Johnson and leads the Avalanche in even strength time on ice. So far this season, he’s produced a goal and four assists. His value will only increase from here, and the organization made out cleanly by obtaining him so early in his career.
- Vladislav Kamenev suffered a gruesome injury in his first contest with the Avalanche, and never really got back on track in the 2017-18 season. This year Kamenev has been a valuable depth center thus far, and just scored his first career NHL goal — which was also the Avalanche’s first shorthanded goal of the season. He’s still working his way into a larger role, but has two points in the last three contests.
- Shane Bowers is one of the least talked about pieces from the trade, but is an important part of the Avalanche’s prospect pipeline. Currently the top center at Boston University with two points in six games, he’ll hopefully sign his Entry-Level Contract with Colorado at the conclusion of his collegiate season. He should fit nicely into the depth chart, and could be a replacement for Carl Soderberg down the line.
- Andrew Hammond can’t be forgotten, even if he’s now a part of the Minnesota Wild organization. Dealt to provide AHL security for the Avalanche and to relieve some Senators cap space, he ended up providing the Avalanche depth goaltending insurance and steal a win in game five of the playoffs, which briefly brought back Hamburglar mania. The 44 save performance against the Nashville Predators kept the Avalanche alive for one more game, as they stretched their playoff series to six games.
- The first of three draft picks the Avalanche acquired in this deal was traded at the 2018 draft, when they moved the 58th overall selection received from Nashville to trade down to 63th overall and select Finnish goaltender Justus Annunen. The deal also yielded a fifth round pick, which was used to select Russian defenseman Danila Zhuravlyov.
- Though not officially included in the trade tree, obtaining the extra second round selection from the Duchene deal allowed the Avalanche to trade their own second round pick for goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
- The remaining draft picks will come in the 2019 draft, including the much discussed first round pick from Ottawa. Depending on how far Ottawa falls, that first round pick could become a winning lottery ticket and net the Avalanche a top player. Forwards Kaapo Kakko and Jack Hughes could be game-changers, while top defenseman Bowen Byram could easily help round out their core. Getting another impact player as part of the return of this trade could make it one of the biggest trade heists of all-time.
Following the trade, each organization involved went a different direction and they continue to do so.
Ottawa actually exited the trade one year ago with the most points of the three teams, boasting 17 to Colorado and Nashville’s respective 16. Of course, things then went south in Ontario, as Ottawa flamed out in spectacular fashion to finish with just 67 points — good for second worst in the league. Meanwhile, Colorado completed a historic turnaround with 95 points, and met the Presidents’ Trophy winner, the 117 point-earning Nashville, in the first round of the playoffs.
Now Ottawa is looking to rebuild with several young players, most notably 2018 first round selection Brady Tkachuk. Matt Duchene is a part of the rumor mill once again, as he is in the last year of his contract. Ottawa is currently 24th in the league with 13 points in 14 games, and should probably bounce around that area as some of their young players keep them in games. Duchene is holding up his end of the bargain thus far with 12 points on the year, including four goals in 13 games.
The Avalanche are chasing the Predators, who hold the top spot in both the Central division and league with 22 points through the first month of the season. Turris is an important forward for them with 11 points in 14 games — and although Nashville had to give up a NHL ready talent like Girard, their window is now and the trade worked out for what they needed at the time.
The Avalanche are still enjoying a good start to their season with 17 points. Girard is a key piece on the backend with several more impact pieces hopefully on the way.