Photo Credit: Matt Kartozlan – USA TODAY Sports
The list of players the Canucks should be trying to trade for is a short one, and Anthony Duclair is somewhere near the top of it.
Duclair is 21-years-old, has 114 NHL games under his belt and produced around half a point per game therein. He’s the type of player rebuilding franchises build their teams around. The exact type that can help transition a down on their luck franchise from pretender to contender, in the right setting.
And according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, he’s on the trade block for the second time in his young career.
It’s not entirely surprising that the Arizona Coyotes are ready to start selling players for futures. It is, however, surprising that they’d part with a player working for them now with room to grow in the future. That’s definitely caught me off guard.
While most are quick to point out Duclair’s slow start (one goal, two assists in fifteen games) as reason for Arizona’s withdrawal, I tend to think there’s more than meets the eye here. Something about a team so heavily invested in analytics as the Coyotes purport to be parting ways with a 21-year-old based on a little bad luck just doesn’t pass the sniff test.
It could be something as simple as dollars and cents. Duclair is a pending restricted free agent in an era where bridge contracts are going the way of the dodo. If you’re young and can play, you’re getting paid.
That might be a problem in Arizona. They’re going into next off-season with about $25-million in cap space, though they’ve obviously an internal budget to adhere to as well.They have to either re-sign or replace Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan. That’s going to take serious short and long-term capital. And while they’re doing that, they’re going to have to find a way to keep availabilities in the lineup for their bountiful prospect stable. It’s quite the balancing act.
I’m willing to bet the Coyotes aren’t giving up on Duclair, so much as they’re shifting pieces on the board to best set themselves up for their long-term vision. That theory goes a long way towards explaining why they’re still asking for a “pretty penny” to snag Duclair.
That and the fact that Duclair is still a high-end player. Whether he’s scoring or not, Duclair contributes positively on a nightly basis and is laying the groundwork for an environment where sustainable offence is possible.
Looking exclusively at this season, Duclair’s aggregate impact on his linemates ability to produce unblocked shot attempts is equal to roughly four shot attempts per sixty minutes. Better still, that pales in comparison to his impact on his teammates ability to generate goals and suppress opposition offence. Not bad for a player having a tough start, right?
The real question isn’t whether the Canucks should acquire Duclair. It’s whether they can. That’s where things get tricky.
Vancouver has a nice stable of prospects, but none that compare to Duclair concerning their offensive ceiling. I suppose you could always allow for the possibility of Brock Boeser as one. Maybe less so Jake Virtanen, too.
By that same token, maybe the Yotes aren’t ready to take on more prospects. Perhaps they look at the Canucks’ stable of young defencemen and see Ben Hutton as a fit within their organization. Whatever the case, they’re likely looking at a volume approach to make up ground.
That might be in the Canucks’ best interests anyway, though. More often than not, the team that secures the best player wins any given trade. Volume for quality rarely works out for the team trading away the better piece. That’s something you should know all too well as Canucks fans.
Regardless of the specifics, it’d cost the Canucks more than they’re likely comfortable to let loose. Whether by volume or quality, Duclair’s going to cost you. You know what? He’s worth it too.