-- Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic has been one of the most maligned executives in the NHL.
His teams have missed the playoffs each season since he took the gig in September 2014. He has been viewed as a celebrity executive, a nostalgic act that would been shuttered were it not for his status as a franchise icon. The Patrick Roy coaching debacle happened on his watch. Many of his player transactions have been panned -- looking at you, Ryan O'Reilly trade -- while his steadfast refusal to trade disgruntled star center Matt Duchene for an elephantine price tag seemed counterintuitive at best, delusional at worst.
Yet as the dust settled on the blockbuster three-way trade on Sunday night that sent Duchene to the Ottawa Senators, center Kyle Turris to the Nashville Predators and a slew of picks and prospects to the Avalanche, it appears Sakic's patience has paid off: The Avalanche received a ridiculous bounty for the 26-year-old star.
"We've said all along that we wanted to be patient and wait for the right deal, and this is the opportunity we feel is best for the organization," Sakic said on Sunday.
For Matt Duchene, the Avalanche acquired seven assets.
We repeat: seven assets.
From the Ottawa Senators, they acquired Shane Bowers, an 18-year-old Boston University center they drafted No. 28 overall in 2017; Andrew Hammond, the 29-year-old pending free agent goalie who is two years removed from a 20-1-2 run that put Ottawa in the playoffs; as well as first-round and third-round picks. Nashville gave Sakic slick-skating 19-year-old offensive defenseman Samuel Girard (No. 47 overall, 2016), 21-year-old forward Vladislav Kamenev (No. 42 overall, 2014) and a second-round pick.
To put this in perspective: According to ESPN's system rankings this season, the Avalanche just acquired the second- and third-best prospects from the Predators, and the fourth-best prospect from the Senators, along with a first, second and third.
For Matt Duchene, who so didn't want to remain in Colorado that he dogged it for months last season.
We'll continue this analysis after you're done genuflecting to the altar of Joe Sakic.
OK, then. Moving on.
Sakic deification aside, there are two other teams in this trade, and both improved in the short term and, depending on Duchene's next contract with Ottawa, the long term.
For Ottawa, know that Senators GM Pierre Dorion has been after Duchene for the better part of two years. He is presuming Duchene will fit well in coach Guy Boucher's system. They kick the same financial headache they had with Turris -- committing long-term to an unrestricted free agent -- until summer 2019. While their production in the past few years was similar, there's no question that Duchene is the more accomplished scorer and explosive player, especially if the Sens' gamble that he needs a change of scenery pays off.
To that end, Duchene is an upgrade -- an established No. 1 center in the way that Turris wasn't. Shipping out the players and picks to acquire him makes sense when you consider Hammond was a third-stringer and that the Sens might not have wanted to give Turris six years and $6 million annually that he received from Nashville.
Ultimately, this trade will be judged by what Ottawa does in the next two seasons with Duchene, and whether he commits to several more seasons after that, with money above and beyond what Turris would have received. But from an assets-for-return perspective, the Senators got the best player in the trade for an understandable cost.
The Predators were linked for the past two years with Duchene, which was more a case of mutual needs -- Nashville's desire for another offensive center, coupled with its defensive depth that Colorado coveted -- than tangible evidence that this was a match. Once the Predators signed No. 1 center Ryan Johansen to an eight-year deal worth $8 million annually starting this season, it all but mandated that the Predators pursued a more fiscally responsible option at center than Duchene, as he makes $6 million against the cap through summer 2019. After that, the Predators could have been faced with giving him more than they gave Johansen, or letting him walk at 28. Neither option was palatable.
Instead, they acquired Turris, whom they then signed to a more reasonable deal with a $6 million cap hit through 2024.
This gives GM David Poile a solid offensive player whose numbers aren't too far off from Duchene's since 2015, as Turris nearly has the same points per game (0.64, 146 games) as Duchene (0.66, 166 games). Of course, keep in mind the relative fortunes of their teams, and the fact that Duchene all but packed it in last season.
With his trade, the Predators have aggressively upgraded a point of concern: Instead of miscasting Nick Bonino or twiddling their thumbs that Calle Jarnkrok or Colton Sissons make the leap to a top-six role at center, they have an established talent in Turris. (Same goes for including Kamenev in the deal -- Turris is a known commodity they're now committed to for six additional seasons, rather than hoping Kamenev blossoms into that role.) As we saw when Johansen went down with an injury in the Western Conference final last postseason, the Predators lacked a 1-A option at center. They have one now, in a conference where every other Stanley Cup contender goes at least two deep at center.
It also gives Poile further cost certainty against his cap, with defensemen Ryan Ellis (2019) and Roman Josi (2020) due raises in the near future. Poile now has over $53 million committed to his salary cap ... in the 2019-20 season. Few teams can boast that level of predictability.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the parting of ways between Colorado and Duchene, which has to be bittersweet. He has played 585 games with the Avalanche since he was 19 after being the third-overall pick in the 2009 draft for them. Since the franchise moved to Colorado in 1995, Duchene has the fourth-most goals (178) for the Avalanche behind Sakic (391), Milan Hejduk (375) and Peter Forsberg (202).
"The last year was tough," Duchene told the Denver Post on Sunday night. "Colorado gave me so much. My wife is from there. We have our dog there. A huge part of my heart and my life is there. It's very emotional to be saying goodbye to that."
Now Duchene has a chance to win, rather than festering in a rebuild he had no desire to take part in. In fact, the Senators and Predators both made win-now decisions -- but Nashville gets a gold star for fiscal shrewdness and ensuring that Turris wasn't going to be a glorified rental.
Yet the winner of this trade is Colorado, no matter how its four players and three draft picks pan out. Sakic spent two years hearing the grumbling of his peers about the Avs' asking price for Duchene, and how he'd never find a team to match it. Well, turns out he didn't find a team: He found two, and they offered up seven pieces for his 26-year-old star.
Perhaps the prospects don't blossom. Perhaps the picks don't actualize into NHL players. Hey, it happens. Sakic's only job here was getting the healthiest return he could for one of his team's most tradeable commodities. It's undeniable he accomplished that task in signing off on this three-way deal. It's also undeniable that by shipping out a top player in Duchene in early November, Sakic might have also increased his team's lottery chances when they finally regress to the mean. The prize this time: Foundational franchise defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, aka the one thing the Avalanche need desperately. (And if the Senators miss the playoffs, they'll have two lottery picks.)
Joe Sakic won the Matt Duchene trade.
File that under "Words we didn't expect to read, ever."