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No seat at the table for the Penguins at the Matt Duchene trade

The Penguins aren’t involved on the Matt Duchene trade, not the end of the world but a look at that and some other items

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

By now you’ve probably seen, but a fantastic and super rare mid-season trade, and a 3-team trade at that went down in the NHL on Sunday night.

Matt Duchene has long been linked to the Pittsburgh Penguins in trade rumors, both real and wishful, but it wasn’t to be. With UFA arleady looming in summer 2019, this might have been a good thing for the Pens. Ditto center Kyle Turris, who quickly signed a $6.0 million annual deal with the Predators for the next 6 years. Can the Pens afford a $6.0 million offensive minded 3rd line center (which is Duchene’s cap hit too)? Perhaps but probably not an ideal situation.

It’s over, but let’s insert Pittsburgh into either situation.

Ottawa gave up Turris, Shane Bowers (their first rounder in 2017) and their 1st in 2018 as well. And a 3rd rounder, plus goalie Andrew Hammond who’s had some promising moments but shown no consistency. To put to Pittsburgh comparables, that would be like giving up Daniel Sprong, a 2018 1st+3rd and probably Tristan Jarry (though younger and a better prospect than Hammond, still the only item to give). Also, due to the salary cap, they wouldn’t have been able to make it work and would have had to include a player with a salary like Carl Hagelin, which might have necessitated giving up even more in exchange since he is under contract for this season and next and hasn’t been in good form. And Hagelin isn’t as valuable as Turris, so there’s no perfect comparable here.

Nashville gave up Vladislav Kamanev (a 2014 2nd rounder who’s excelled in the AHL) plus 19-year old defenseman and former 2nd rounder Samuel Girard plus a future 2nd. This is a better comparison for Pittsburgh - probably Sprong, Zachary Lauzon (assuming Colorado was high on him) plus a future 2nd would get them in the running here. But Nashville only got UFA-to-be Turris and signed him for $6.0 million. As mentioned, stylistically, Turris wouldn’t excel in a Jordan Staal/Nick Bonino type role to take heavy d-zone starts and a big PK’ing role on the Pittsburgh 3rd line. Add in that it’s unknown if he would re-sign with Pittsburgh for the next 6 years knowing he would be stuck in such a role behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Hey, Staal himself refused, which means it probably wouldn’t be a good idea for Pittsburgh (who don’t have that many future trade chips anyways) to push 3 valuable ones in for Turris.

Still, it somewhat fits that Pittsburgh could have been in the Nashville piece of this puzzle in the 3-team trade, had they really wanted it, even if it wouldn’t be smart to give up Sprong+Lauzon+2nd for less than a season of Turris, and even then it can be argued Girard is a much better NHL prospect than Lauzon at this point. Plus, there’s the cap considerations- Pittsburgh couldn’t have acquired Turris without shedding a meaningful salary. All in all, it’s not a perfect fit and simple to see why the Pens weren’t too involved in a complicated three-team trade given their situation, and why Ottawa and Nashville were better positioned with the salary cap and with trade chips to be the ones involved to get this trade done.

Not every trade is going to include the Pens, so it sort of is an “it is what it is” situation. Colorado accomplished their goal to receive a ton of futures for Duchene, though they didn’t get any current front-line NHL’ers, which seems questionable for them at best- though they do get 3 picks (1st, 2nd and a 3rd) plus a recent 1st rounder in Bowers, and two good prospects in Kamanev and Girard. That’s a lot of lottery tickets for Duchene, a player who’s clock to UFA was ticking ever louder. They’ll probably get crushed for previous offers, but really they have the most to gain if half or most of their prospects develop into NHL contributors.

Nashville, to me, is a clear winner. They give up 3 decent future pieces, but keep all their top players and prospects and sign Turris who should be great in a 2nd line role. Add him to Bonino and Ryan Johansen and they have impressive center depth locked up for a while, add that to their defensive core plus Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson and they ought to be a contender well placed for years to come.

Ottawa is in an interesting spot. They likely get the best player involved in the transaction right now, but one as we mentioned not too far from free agency. One would think they will make efforts to keep him in the future, but they paid a fairly hefty price in giving up Turris plus last years and next years 1st rounder. Really, they gave up more than what the Pens did for Phil Kessel, with none of the contract certainty, and risk could be real if Duchene opts to skate free in 18 months. Kessel had a very restrictive no-trade clause though, which influenced that deal and should be remembered. But it does go to show how a team like the Pens needs to pick and choose their spots, and the way this unfolded, it wasn’t one.

Now, Pittsburgh is going to have to move on. They would probably still like to increase center depth if at all possible, and Duchene and Turris off the board now hurts that as two tradeable options leaving the market. If general manager Jim Rutherford wants to boost the team via trade any time soon, his job probably got a little more trickier after Sunday night’s events.