Avalanche ac­quire im­pres­sive as­sets in deal­ing Duch­ene

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS -

Colorado Avalanche gen­eral man­ager Joe Sa­kic will be judged as ei­ther be­ing im­pres­sively shrewd or in­cred­i­bly lucky in his han­dling of the Matt Duch­ene sit­u­a­tion.

He was prob­a­bly a com­bi­na­tion of the two. But re­gard­less of which as­sess­ment you be­lieve, Sa­kic’s slow-play strat­egy in deal­ing Duch­ene paid off with a strong re­turn for the cen­ter.

How many times have we heard over the last sev­eral months that Sa­kic was ask­ing for too many as­sets in ex­change for Duch­ene?

Sa­kic’s ri­vals and mem­bers of the me­dia spec­u­lated no one would be will­ing to pay his ask­ing price. It was said he wanted a prize, young de­fense­man, another qual­ity young player, plus a fir­stand sec­ond-round draft pick. Too much, ev­ery­one said.

As the smoke cleared from Sun­day night’s three-way trade be­tween the Avalanche, Nashville Preda­tors and Otta- wa Sen­a­tors, what we see is Sa­kic sit­ting with a first-, sec­ond- and thir­dround pick, a prize young de­fense­man (Sa­muel Gi­rard), a for­mer first-round pick (Shane Bow­ers), a de­sir­able young cen­ter in Vladislav Kamenev and a cred­i­ble NHL goalie (An­drew Ham­mond).

And what he gave up to get those as­sets was Duch­ene. Noth­ing else.

Un­doubt­edly, it will leak out over the next cou­ple of days that Sa­kic turned down of­fers that some will be­lieve were bet­ter.

That’s the way trad­ing works, espe­cially in this era of in­tense so­cial me­dia scru­tiny.

But what is un­de­ni­able is that Sa­kic, de­spite all the crit­i­cism he re­ceived, got ex­actly what he wanted in this deal and more.

Sure, it was his good for­tune that the Sen­a­tors couldn’t re-sign Kyle Tur­ris, which paved the way for this block­buster swap. But tim­ing is im­por­tant in ev­ery deal. Some event hap­pens, which opens a door, and qual­ity gen­eral man­agers find a way to rush through that door. The door opened for Sa­kic, and he stepped through.

Ev­ery team re­ceived what it needed in the deal. The Preda­tors are the in­stant win­ner be­cause they put them­selves in a much bet­ter po­si­tion to win the Stan­ley Cup. The Ryan Jo­hansen-Tur­ris one-two cen­ter com­bi­na­tion is prefer­able to the in­jury-cre­ated sit­u­a­tion the Preda­tors had dur­ing the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal when it seemed like they were try­ing to bat­tle the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins with Colton Sis­sons lead­ing the way at cen­ter.

But Sa­kic has the po­ten­tial to be the big­gest long-term win­ner be­cause of the num­ber of as­sets re­ceived.

Gi­rard, 19, has shown high-end prom­ise in the few games he has played for the Preda­tors this sea­son, and Kamenev, 21, has the po­ten­tial long term to be as pro­duc­tive as Duch­ene. He had 21 goals in the Amer­i­can Hockey League last sea­son and shows eight points in 10 games this sea­son.

Bow­ers is a Bos­ton Univer­sity fresh­man. Too soon to project his fu­ture, but scouts be­lieve he will play in the NHL.

We haven’t even dis­cussed the draft picks yet.

After Colorado’s stand­ings col­lapse last sea­son and how slowly Sa­kic seemed to move on Duch­ene, some fans won­dered how he kept his job. The dis­trust of Sa­kic started after his Ryan O’Reilly trade, which failed to yield the bounty that had been an­tic­i­pated.

But Colorado own­er­ship seemed to still trust Sa­kic, and maybe that trust wasn’t mis­guided. The Avalanche have looked sharper this sea­son, post­ing an 8-6 record, 5-1 at home.

The present no longer looks bleak in Colorado, and the fu­ture seems more pos­i­tive.

It will be a cou­ple of sea­sons or longer be­fore we truly know how this deal will ben­e­fit the Avalanche, but Sa­kic has ev­ery right to feel smug to­day.

Matt Duch­ene was one of the key play­ers in a three-team trade Sun­day. ISA­IAH J. DOWN­ING/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Kevin Allen Colum­nist USA TO­DAY

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