It began with a terrific column by Denver-based columnist Adrian Dater this week, the key quote from Avs GM Joe Sakic being that Nathan MacKinnon was basically the only untouchable player on his roster.
Which certainly allowed for all kinds of interpretation when it came to Matt Duchene, in particular.
Then, while making calls to sources in other front offices around the NHL on Thursday, what I heard back was that Duchene's name was indeed out there in conversations with teams.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be dealt. This could just be Colorado seeing what the market is not just for Duchene but also for other players on its roster, in case changes are needed later in the season. And it could be other teams asking about Duchene, which Colorado can’t control.
But whatever the case, his name has been out there lately.
The Avs are in last place in the NHL’s toughest division, the Central, and there’s pressure on GM Joe Sakic and coach Patrick Roy after the team missed the playoffs last season.
Colorado has begun a huge seven-game road trip with wins in Philadelphia and Boston, with Duchene scoring three goals in those two games, so if this was just about lighting a fire under him, then mission accomplished.
Mind you, he had no idea his name was even out there, shocked apparently when asked by ESPN.com colleague Joe McDonald about hearing his name in trade rumors after Thursday night’s game in Boston.
"I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Duchene responded. "Well, I hope not. I guess that’s up to them. I want to be an Av, I’ve said that my whole career. I don’t know what the rumors are, and I’m not going to go looking for them, either. Whatever."
If this road trip is the moment Colorado’s season is turning around for the better, perhaps Sakic sits tight.
But if the team doesn’t get going, I think all bets are off as far as what the Avs might be willing to do tradewise before the March deadline. They’re not going to sit on their hands and do nothing if it’s another poor season.
I would expect Eric Staal's veteran agent, Rick Curran, to sit down with Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas to get a better idea on the organization’s intentions with the potential July 1 unrestricted free agent. Will the Canes want to sign him? And if so, can both sides find a number that works? If not, if the team wants to go younger, would Staal be willing to waive his no-trade? Lots of questions to be answered there.
Jarred Tinordi hasn’t played a game yet this season, stuck in the press box in part because the Montreal Canadiens are rolling with a healthy blue-line corps that doesn’t warrant changing and because Montreal doesn’t want to lose him on waivers, which would be required for an AHL demotion. Other teams are watching closely, and some of them have begun reaching out to the Habs to gauge his availability. If you’re the Habs, do you take the best offer and cut the cord with the former first-round pick, or do you patiently wait this out longer? Tough call.