NHL Trade Rumors: Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche Untouchables

Joey Suyeishi@avrilancheCorrespondent IIFebruary 17, 2012

NHL Trade Rumors: Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche Untouchables

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    As the NHL trade deadline looms, every player is undoubtedly aware of the February 27 date.  Many players will call new cities home in two weeks, don a different jersey, have their paychecks signed by a different team and, ultimately, try to help that team win.

    Other players will likely have a slightly new-look team as their teammates and friends very well may be shipped off.  The trade deadline is a stressful and emotional time for every NHL player, but it's something that comes with the territory of being a professional hockey player and is an exciting time for fans.

    There has been and will continue to be much speculation as to whom from the Colorado Avalanche will be traded in the coming days.  With the Avalanche right in the thick of things as far as playoff positioning, they are not a clear-cut buyer, nor are they clear-cut sellers.  The problem is that several other teams are in the same boat as well.

    Some top-tier teams like the Detroit Red Wings or New York Rangers will be buyers if anything and a few bottom-feeders like the Columbus Blue Jackers and Edmonton Oilers will try to stockpile young prospective talent and draft picks.  It seems like those two teams are always down there.  Is Edmonton going to get the natural hat trick with first overall picks?

    With many teams in the same predicament as Colorado, there may not be as many big name trades as we've seen in years past.  There are certainly a number of superstars who could be moved, and the Avs have quite a few players who could be traded as well.

    Today, however, I am going to examine the players who will not be traded from the Avalanche—layers who are, for one reason or another, untouchable.

Matt Duchene

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    Matt Duchene hasn't quite had the breakout season many people predicted.  He got off to a slow start, which has been customary for him, but did begin to pick up his numbers in November.

    A freak knee injury has sidelined him since late December, and he has yet to play in a game during the 2012 calendar year thus far, although his return does appear on the horizon.

    Duchene is untradable simply because he is the Avs' most gifted offensive player.  His speed with the puck is virtually incomparable and is a threat to score or make a play any time he is in the offensive zone.  His defensive play has been criticized throughout his young career, but I think he is more responsible than many of the NHL's young offensive stars. 

    Duchene is one of the key building blocks of this young Avalanche team and is not going anywhere.

    His rookie contract is up after this year, and he should be receiving a hefty raise for many years to come with the Burgundy and Blue.

Erik Johnson

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    Like Duchene, Erik Johnson has not quite blown up yet like many have hoped.  It seems people always forget that Johnson is still only 23 years old.  This is only his fourth NHL season after missing the entire 2008-09 season with a freak ACL tear suffered in a golf cart incident.

    While EJ has certainly had tremendous expectations placed on his shoulders ever since being selected No. 1 overall by St. Louis in the 2006 NHL draft, the Avs absolutely need to be patient with him.  They need to let him develop into the top-tier NHL defenseman he certainly can become.  The Blues gave up on him when they traded him to Colorado.

    He has everything you want in a defenseman; he's big, strong, can skate and has a blistering slap shot.  Quietly, he has picked up his play by being more aggressive and physical in his own end.  He's been moving his feet more.  As a result, he has two goals in his last two games.

    Like Duchene, EJ's current deal is up after this year, and the Avs will no doubt re-up his contract.

Gabriel Landeskog

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    Last year's second overall pick has not disappointed.  For a while, it looked as if Edmonton's first overall pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, was just going to run away with the rookie scoring race.  After a nagging shoulder injury suffered by RNH, Gabriel Landeskog sits only seven points behind the incumbent leader, Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils.

    While no rookie this year is going to come close to challenging Teemu Selanne's or Wayne Gretzky's all-time rookie records, Landeskog has a shot to get into the Calder consideration.  Even if he doesn't, his 30 points are nothing to scoff at.  He also leads the Avalanche, as well as all NHL rookies, in shots and hits.  The kid is not gun-shy!

    He plays a very strong game for a 19-year-old and will only continue to get better.  Like Matt Duchene, Landy will be an offensive force for the Avalanche for many years to come.

Ryan O'Reilly

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    Ryan O'Reilly accomplished a tremendous feat by being a second-round pick to go straight from getting drafted directly to the NHL.  It's typical for high first round picks to go straight to the big club, but O'Reilly became the first second rounder to make an opening night NHL roster since Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins in 2003.

    During his first two seasons, O'Reilly established himself as a premiere defensive center.  However, this year, his offensive game has blossomed and he's been the Avs' best player all season long.  He leads the team with 15 goals, 26 assists, and 41 points (he had 26 points in each of his first two season).

    Like Duchene, O'Reilly's rookie contract his up after this season, and he will undoubtedly be in for a sizable raise and multi-year deal.

Paul Stastny

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    Paul Stastny is not untouchable in the same way that the aforementioned players are.  In fact, Stastny now seems to be the perennial Avalanche player who's always in the trade rumors.  Before it was John-Michael Liles and several years ago, it was Alex Tanguay, both of whom were eventually dealt. 

    However, despite all the rumors, I don't think Stats gets traded this year. First and foremost, his contract puts rumors in question.  He still has two more years on his current deal, which negates the possibility of him being acquired as a rental player.

    Any team that would trade for him would have to commit to his $6.6 salary for the next two years.  For a guy who's only put up 36 points in 55 games this season, that's a lot to ask.  Plus, any team that's willing to trade for Stastny would not offer the Avs what he's worth. I still think JML was worth more than just the second round pick they got for him.

    Moreover, at his best, Stastny is a point-per-game player, but his numbers this season just haven't been there.  I'm not saying Stastny will not be traded eventually, but I think it's way more likely that he's traded two years from now rather than within the next 10 days.  Both JML and Tanguay were traded when they were in the last years of their contracts.

The Others

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    Other players who, like Paul Stastny are not in the final years of their contracts and would therefore not be rental players for other teams are Semyon Varlamov, whom the Avs have pegged as their goalie of the future despite his up-and-down play this season.  Like EJ, Varly is only 23 and like defensemen, goaltenders need time to develop. 

    Give Varly time to grow into a full-fledged No. 1 goalie.

    Jean-Sebastien Giguere also has another deal left on his Avalanche contract and the Avalanche organization has to be thrilled with what he's brought to the table in terms of consistent play and leadership.  He did suffer a groin injury Wednesday night, which is worrisome due to his history of groin problems. 

    He is currently listed as "day-to-day" and was not placed in the injured reserve.  Hopefully, it's not serious!

    Jan Hejda is in year one of a four-year deal, and Chuck Kobasew is in the first of a two-year deal.  Of course, if Sherman's phone does ring inquiring about either Hejda or Kobasew, he certainly ought to listen up.

    If the Avs were in clear-cut seller mode, the one guy who could be a viable rental option for a contender would be long-time Avalanche forward and current captain, Milan Hejduk.  Even though his numbers have been underwhelming this year, teams would surely covet his veteran experience and talent. 

    However, with the Avs still battling to get back into the playoff picture, I don't see their captain going anywhere.