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NHL Trade Rumors: Duchene to Pittsburgh Penguins whispers are back

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CBC's Elliotte Friedman thinks that the Penguins could be in the picture for Colorado's Matt Duchene. Could it be?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It's silly season for NHL trade rumors and Elliotte Friedman had a few Penguins centric items. Let's discuss:

There seems to be quite a bit of interest in Trevor Daley.

NHL teams were allowed to begin talks (but no formal agreements) with pending unrestricted free agents. It already seemed likely that Daley was likely to leave Pittsburgh, but this note reinforces that outside interest adds to that likelihood.

14. It looks like Minnesota, Pittsburgh or retirement for Matt Cullen, but it would not be a shock if Buffalo called him. GM Jason Botterill knows him and he’d be an excellent fit. A centre who can teach and still play is never bad. Can see the Sabres looking at Brian Boyle for the same reason.

Last year it took until August 17th for Cullen to commit to Pittsburgh. In 2015, Cullen originally signed with the Pens on August 5th. Point being: unlike most free agents, Cullen probably isn't likely to make up his mind or actually put pen to paper and make decision official until deep into the summer. One would think, based off his post-season comments, if he plays anywhere it would be in back in the 'Burgh.

But OK, now the big one:

15. Low-key Matt Duchene possibility: Pittsburgh. The Penguins have circled around him before. Both Glen Sather and Phil Jackson (before he decided to ruin the Knicks) talked about adding new players to championship teams. You prevent a staleness, and if the newcomer is popular, the group rallies around them so they can win, too. Everyone’s frustrated: Colorado GM Joe Sakic, Duchene and agent Pat Brisson. Could Olli Maatta plus more pieces get the Penguins into this?

This would obviously be the move of the summer.

As Sean Gentille from the Post-Gazette sums it up:

So, if we’re spitballing, you have to assume it’d cost the Penguins something like Daniel Sprong and a first-round pick to get it done. As we heard ad nauseam after the Ryan Reaves trade, a late first-round pick is a crapshoot, and the Penguins’ overall goal for the next few years should be winning more Stanley Cups. Duchene furthers that goal to a significantly larger margin than Bonino, Sprong and a theoretical prospect.

And that sounds right. If the cost is paying Nick Bonino $4 million or upgrading to Matt Duchene for $6.0? That's a price the Pens can afford under the cap. The bigger difficulty for Pittsburgh, as Sean also notes, is how to replace a top-4 defenseman in Maatta. A lot of Pens fan have picked the nits of his game, and those nits and mistakes are there. However his youth and advanced stats show he is a steady and stable defender across the board.

Regardless, the total trade price probably determines if this happens. Colorado has wanted to trade Duchene for a while, but hasn't found a price they've liked and have held onto him. It appears they won't be just trading him to trade him.

The NHL trade market though, time and again, tells us that a puck moving defenseman is worth as much as even elite scoring forwards. See Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall. Or James Neal for Alex Goligoski. Perhaps the Penguins could stick to their guns and insist on that precedent being maintained. And with 3 goals in his last 39 games to end the season, it's not like Duchene is at peak-value right now either, also being just 2 seasons away from unrestricted free agency.

So now you see the sticking point and why most rumors and team who have interest don't always get the player. They have to offer enough to make the Avalanche want to trade, without giving away too many assets to cripple their own team. It's tough to hit the sweet spot.

Either way, you would think the Pens need to move quickly on this, since most the best free agents (including Bonino) are likely to sign on July 1st (this Saturday) and there isn't a lot of time to decide if they're keeping Maatta and adding a 3C possibly via free agency...Or getting Duchene and replacing Maatta with a cheaper option.

I'll be interested to see the results in the trade and the ensuing debate. It's been a while since we've had some good non-Fleury related trade ideas to discuss.