Matt Duchene is trapped in a nightmare. His prime is being wasted on a horrendous team going nowhere. He's a millionaire living in a state with legalized marijuana but can't partake in the dank skunk without repercussions from his employer. Nathan MacKinnon won't stop telling Duchene that Big Bang Theory is funnier than Curb Your Enthusiasm because, "Bazinga is just a funny word."
OK, that last part may not be true.
Actually, the first part isn't true either. Duchene is in the best position of any NHL player to win a Stanley Cup in 2018.
Ha, no, not with the Colorado Avalanche, of course.
Duchene is as good as gone, and while his lack of a no-trade clause prevents him from controlling his fate, there's a really good chance he's headed to a contender. A rebuilding team that views Duchene as a foundational piece will have a hard time convincing him to re-up long term, but with a reasonable $6 million cap hit, teams that have an open Stanley Cup window will trip over themselves to add what could be the missing piece.
Think of Duchene as a beautiful painting, perhaps a tasteful nude of a founding father from the 1700s, that's available for auction. The opening bid is so expensive that you know the Devils can't meet the asking price and the NHL isn't lending the Coyotes any money. Other teams can afford to drive up the price but the piece doesn't go with the decor in their middle-class homes, so it's a case where the rich will get richer.
There are a handful of teams in the East that have just the perfect spot in the living room for the very special art work that is Duchene. The Penguins, Canadiens, and heck, even the Hurricanes if everything is coming together this season, could all vie for the No. 1 center. Maybe the Lightning get creative at the deadline. The Predators will be in the market for a center if they're once again Cup contenders, and if the Avs avoid the dumb unwritten rule of not making a trade within the division they can make a push for Duchene.
No matter what, Duchene will make a good team great. That is, unless he is traded to Pittsburgh and turns a great team into a 16-3 postseason team as the Penguins' No. 3 center.
If Duchene goes to Montreal—he theoretically speaks French by now so he checks the one box required to play there—the Canadiens become the scariest team in the East. If Duchene goes to Carolina—assuming the presence of Scott Darling stopping between 91.5 and 92.5 percent of shots pushes the Hurricanes into a playoff spot—that's a pretty good two-year landing spot for the team and player.
The Leafs don't need a center, but they also didn't need a $7 million, 38-year-old, third-line winger, so let's imagine that team getting even deeper at forward by pushing one of their centers to the wing.
Nick Bonino is currently the Predators' second-line center. Come on, David Poile. Let's go here.
Avs GM Joe Sakic, however, will almost definitely screw this up. Just as the auctioneer is about to announce this gorgeous Thomas Jefferson painting (I don't know why I chose this as my metaphor but I'm in too deep to change it) is sold for twice the expected price, Sakic will reject the winning bid, take the painting back to his broken-down home and accidentally drop it into a fire to ruin its value completely.
But if he doesn't, Duchene could hold the key to a title in his weedless hands.
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