TOP 3 Trades of 2017:
No. 1: To Senators: Matt Duchene; to Predators: Kyle Turris; to Avalanche: Shane Bowers, Andrew Hammond, Samuel Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, a 2018 first-round pick, a 2018 second-round pick and a 2018 third-round pick
Ottawa and Nashville both wanted to upgrade at center. Ottawa did so in theory, landing the trade market’s biggest fish in the speedy Duchene. The Sens and GM Pierre Dorion paid a massive cost, though, not just surrendering two picks and a prospect but also giving up one of their top two pivots in Turris. Duchene was barely an upgrade over Turris to begin with, and Turris has since skated circles around him, flourishing in Music City, who signed him to a big contract extension right after acquiring him. The Preds are 10-2-2 with Turris in the lineup since the trade. Ottawa: 3-10-2 with Duchene. We can’t pin each team’s fate solely on one player, but the optics sure are damning for the Sens on this one. Especially when they also gave up their 2017 first-round pick in Bowers not to mention a first-rounder next June. Those are just a few of the pieces in Avalanche GM Joe Sakic’s comically huge haul. After months of chatter suggesting teams were scoffing at Sakic’s enormous asking price, he got what he wanted. Three picks, three legit prospects and depth goalie Andrew Hammond just for Duchene, whose contract expires in summer 2019. Kamenev broke his arm shortly after the deal, but the rebuilding Avs don’t need him boosting their win total this season anyway, so the loss was palatable, and Girard has gained valuable experience playing more than 18 minutes a night in Colorado’s lineup.
No. 2: Lightning trade Jonathan Drouin and a 2018 conditional sixth-round pick for Mikhail Sergachev and a 2018 conditional second-round pick
This is 2017’s most talked-about trade. It generated major headlines when it happened in June, and the buzz hasn’t stopped since. Habs GM Marc Bergevin knew his team needed a top-end center and decided to roll the dice on Drouin, a dazzling playmaker who had not played center since ages. Drouin faced a heap of pressure as the team’s first francophone star since Jose Theodore. Has he delivered? It’s debatable. He’s been a decent but unspectacular offensive contributor. There’s plenty of time for him to blossom. Unfortunately, Drouin can’t seem to escape comparisons to the piece Montreal surrendered in the deal: powerhouse defenseman Sergachev. Everyone knew he was an elite prospect at his position, projected to become a do-it-all No. 1 NHL defenseman when Montreal picked him ninth overall in 2016. But Bergevin likely didn’t expect Sergachev to make a splash right now at 19. He’s been not only one of the NHL’s best rookies, but best overall defensemen, too. He has more goals, assists and points than Drouin. Sergachev already looks like an all-around stud and has made the Lightning so much more dangerous because they can split stalwarts Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman onto two separate pairings, with Stralman mentoring Sergachev.
No. 3: Blues trade Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and a 2018 conditional first-round pick to Flyers for Brayden Schenn
Maybe Flyers GM Ron Hextall has behaved so conservatively in his tenure because when he does emerge from his hole to make a trade, he gets pillaged like he did here. There’s just no justifying Philly’s return for this one. It was an iffy trade the day it happened, with the Blues quickly announcing they’d give Schenn a crack at a scoring-line center role, and it has since become the steal of the year. Schenn has been the NHL’s top power forward this season, period. He already has six game-winning goals and is in contention for the league scoring crown and Hart Trophy. He’s finally realizing the potential he showed as a superstar junior player in the WHL, and it hasn’t seemed to matter which wingers he’s played with between Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen.
Charlie McAvoy hasn’t been getting a lot of mainstream attention – most of it goes to flashy forwards like Brock Boeser, Mathew Barzal, Clayton Keller, and Nico Hischier – but he is quietly putting together a fantastic season. Not only has he been one of the NHL’s best rookies in the early going, but a strong case can be made he’s been one of the NHL’s best defensemen. The 19-year-old has tallied a very solid 15 points through 27 games, which ties him for 5th on Boston in scoring while taking on a workload *generally* assigned to experienced players who have proven they’re among the best, and most reliable, in the league. What’s most impressive is that McAvoy hasn’t just logged a lot of very tough minutes, he has excelled in them. Among the ten leaders in 5v5 ice time per game, only Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, and Seth Jones have averaged more points on a per 60-minute basis. McAvoy, like most of the group, has also shown the ability to drive possession.
Simply put, McAvoy has taken on a massive workload and put up numbers that rival the NHL’s best while doing so. He may not be getting much hype in the Calder race, but it’s certainly not because he doesn’t deserve it. He should be a Calder favorite.
The question of whether to trade Max Pacioretty was going to come up no matter how he played this season. However, with the Montreal Canadiens playing incredibly inconsistent hockey, a lot of eyes are looking towards Pacioretty. While a letter on your sweater isn’t required to be a leader, players with them are still looked upon to act as such. Being the captain in Montreal is demanding and can weigh heavily on a player, especially during a difficult season. Off the ice, Pacioretty has been an exemplary citizen for Montreal. He represents the team well in the community, at team events and with his own charity work (Max Pacioretty Foundation). He faces the media after every game, good and bad. However, all that good he does off the ice is forgotten when the team is losing. The issue lately has been Pacioretty telling the media how he needs to be better, but fans have yet to see the results. Too often Pacioretty gets a pass from the team when it comes to questionable play on the ice. You can argue since the PK Subban trade, Alex Galchenyuk is now the scapegoat. Galchenyuk is in no way a perfect player. However, it makes no sense some nights when Galchenyuk’s effort is fair game for criticism but Pacioretty escapes it. Perhaps it is a coaching tactic considering both Michel Therrien and Claude Julien have done this but it’s questionable to say whether it works. This isn’t a defence of Galchenyuk, more of an example of the captain going publicly unscathed from the coaching staff. It’s not a case of Pacioretty making a ton of mistakes or just not producing. In 2019, Pacioretty’s very team-friendly deal ($4.5 million per year) comes to an end and he will be turning 31. By then, he will no doubt be looking at hitting it big on what could be his last chance at a long-term deal. Last year, Pacioretty didn’t really get hot until early December but we’ve yet to see signs of that happening this season. Pacioretty may be injured, or in a slump, so his season to date might be an anomaly. However, he is also 29, an age when forwards usually begin to exit their prime. The idea of giving a 31-year-old Pacioretty an eight-year extension at around $8 million per year is not a sound investment. While still on his current deal, it may be time for Montreal to explore trading their captain. It may seem asinine to even consider trading a perennial 30-goal scorer off a team that struggles to score goals. In this case, giving Pacioretty a long-term extension at 31 or letting him walk for nothing are not ideal scenarios. A trade involving prospects or picks or at least another top forward or defenceman would benefit Montreal’s future. For Pacioretty, he might be better off playing away from the spotlight without the weight of wearing the C.