Buffalo Sabres: Should the team go after Matt Duchene?

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 21: Matt Duchene. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 21: Matt Duchene. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The summer months were filled with trade speculation surrounding Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene. The Buffalo Sabres were one of the teams with interest in the troubled center.

I have seen many fans of the Buffalo Sabres, many of them Facebook armchair GM’s, throw their trade suggestions to the internet, some reasonable, others just plain ridiculous.

If the Buffalo Sabres were to make a trade for Matt Duchene, there would be a lot to consider: Where he fits in the lineup, does he play center, realistically who does Buffalo Trade, is his cap hit worth it, which players would he mesh well with, and finally, is it worth the price the Avalanche are asking?

The supposed asking price for Duchene is a top end defensive prospect, a roster player, and a high draft pick (according to The Hockey News, back in January). The asking price supposedly has not changed since the trade rumors started at the beginning of last season. There is no confirmation of this, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say that the price for Duchene is still what I listed above.

So let’s dive into the handful of issues/questions that I posed at the start of this.

Who Does Buffalo Trade?

Now here’s where I get to play armchair GM a little bit, but I’m going to look at this from a realistic perspective from both sides. A straight up trade for Duchene might be a little tough, but here is what I think could make some sense. The Avalanche want a young promising defenseman, and Buffalo has a couple that come to mind.

The first would be Brenden Guhle, and the second would be Jake McCabe. Guhle has drawn the attention of Sabres fans and others as he has emerged as one of the most promising young defenders in their system. An offensive defensive talent with speed to add to the mix is something that Colorado would seek. McCabe is older than Guhle, but he is still young at the age of 23 (nearly 24).

He showed last season that he is capable of playing top four minutes in the NHL, and that he is responsible and reliable on the back end; something Colorado desperately needs. Guhle is an entry level contract, but McCabe’s cap hit runs at $1.6M for the next two years. A monstrously affordable hit for such a promising young defender.

More from Sabres News

If Buffalo trades either of those two, they still would need to trade a young player, or a roster player as well. Duchene has a cap hit of $6.0M for the next two years, so that would have to be balanced out going the other way somehow, in order for GM Botterill to go for it at all.

Say the Sabres trade McCabe, they still have to clear up another $4.4M, so let’s look at the potential roster players that could be sent Colorado’s way to clear this up.

The players that COULD be traded to clear this up are as follows: Ryan O’Reilly – $7.5M, Kyle Okposo – $6.0M, Jason Pominville – $5.6M, Evander Kane – $5.2M, Matt Moulson – $5.0M, Rasmus Ristolainen – $5.4M, and Zach Bogosian – $5.14M.

If the Buffalo Sabres were to make a move for Matt Duchene they would need to clear up enough cap to absorb his hit, especially with the resigning of Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart lingering over their heads for next season.

Looking at this list of potential trade pieces, it is important to add that both Pominville and Moulson have no-trade clauses in their contracts and would have to waive them in order to go to Colorado.

I rather doubt that either of them would go for that, especially Pominville who just arrived here and is setting back in nicely.

That leaves the biggest potential two players that could be traded as Bogosian and Kane. Kane has had his name in trade rumors since the start of his career in Buffalo. It makes the most sense that he would be the player on the way out if this was the case. So, thus far the trade is Matt Duchene for Jake McCabe and Evander Kane; the rest of the trade would have to include either a second or first round pick.

This of course is just hypothetical, but it is the realistic approach to this potential trade that so many people seem to be discussing prior to the season.

Where does Duchene Fit?

The next question that has to be asked is that, if Matt Duchene is acquired from Colorado, where does he play? The Buffalo Sabres are already top heavy with centers, Duchene would be forced to compete with the likes of Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly for a top six center role; a situation that would have him centering the third line. No offense to him, but I don’t think Duchene’s $6.0M cap hit is worth a third line center position that can be well handled by Zemgus Girgensons.

In this case, Duchene would end up playing on the wing where Kane was once playing. Since this is the case, he would have to fit in the top six, but which players would he benefit most from playing with, and who would mesh with his skills best?

If this were the scenario, Duchene would have to play alongside Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, or Jack Eichel and Jason Pominville. Eichel as his centerman would allow Duchene to use his creativity and speed down the wing, which would eventually benefit Eichel making his moves in the middle of the ice.

Having Reinhart on the opposite wing would be positive due to his proven playmaking smarts, and he would be able to find Duchene in the right areas at the right time. If it were Pominville instead, the same concept would apply.

Is It All Worth It?

With all of these factors considered, the last question to be answered is if the whole ordeal is worth it.

To review, The Buffalo Sabres would have to trade Jake McCabe, Evander Kane, and a first or second round pick for ONLY Matt Duchene, and if this goes through, he would have to play a wing role in the top six, for a cap hit of $6.0M over the next two seasons.

My final conclusion is that the trade is absolutely NOT worth the effort. If you’re a numbers person, those speak for themselves. Matt Duchene has been inconsistent with his numbers over his career, and this past season was a down one (18G, 41P). His cap hit meshed with the price that Buffalo would have to pay in order to get him is absurd.

I have seen many fans on the internet saying how bad they want this trade, but they want to give Colorado something like Matt Moulson, Brycen Martin, and a second round pick. While I understand how that works out for Buffalo, I see no reason the Avalanche would take that kind of offer seriously.

Next: Player Projection - Jack Eichel

Let this one go Sabres fans. We don’t need Matt Duchene to make this team better. We have a solid group of guys that are going to really show us something this season. Let the pieces fall into place before trying to replace them with a player no better than what you would be trading away.