Memorable Moments of the Season #1: The Matt Duchene Trade

A look back at the trade that shook the NHL.

Welcome to the first instalment of Silver Seven’s Memorable Moments of the Season series. From Monday to Friday this week, we’ll be taking a retrospective look at the 2017-2018 Ottawa Senators season, by reviewing five of its most memorable and defining moments. Today, we turn the clock back five months to November 6th 2017, the day of the Matt Duchene trade.

Believe it or not, but looking back at the context, the Sens were a winning team! Coming off a strong opening month in October, their record of 7-3-5 was 11th in the NHL, while holding onto the third spot in the Atlantic. After coming off a year where they made it within millimetres of the Stanley Cup Finals, there was some pressure on Pierre Dorion and the rest of the front office to deliver again, and prove it wasn’t a fluke. They wanted to add.

The target in sight was Matt Duchene. There were plenty of rumours linking Duchene to Ottawa for a while beforehand, as his name was frequently involved in trade talks following some disappointing times in Colorado. He wanted to play playoff hockey, and it didn’t look like the Avalanche would be there anytime soon following a historically bad season in 2016-17. He requested a trade, leaving his fate in the hands of GM Joe Sakic.

Ottawa stepped forward as a serious contender, although a trade piece with that much skill and star power would come at a steep price. Colorado was looking for a young, NHL-ready defenceman, although the Sens were unwilling to part with either of Cody Ceci or Thomas Chabot. One player they were willing to part with, however, was Kyle Turris.

Beloved by many, and encapsulated as an Ottawa hero for his playoff heroics, Turris’ contract was coming to a close at the end of the season, and was due for a significant pay raise from his bargain $3.5 million salary. This later prompted some discussion as to whether Eugene Melnyk was at all involved in pushing the trade to happen, eventually spawning Julie Turris’ (Kyle’s wife) immortal tweet.

But Colorado wasn’t looking for a centre.... enter the Nashville Predators.

The trio of Dorion, Sakic and David Poile teamed together to try and form a rare three-way trade to satisfy each team’s needs. Then, this happened:

Darren Dreger dropped a bombshell, as supposedly one of the teams wasn’t satisfied enough with the return. The Senators and Avalanche were set to head to Stockholm, Sweden in the next couple days to face each other twice, which possibly spurred a self-imposed deadline for the teams to get something done.

But two days later, as we now know, around 7:00 p.m., the trade finally happened. Here is how it all broke down:

OTTAWA TRADES: Kyle Turris, Andrew Hammond, Shane Bowers, conditional 2018 1st round pick*, 2019 3rd round pick

COLORADO ACQUIRES: Samuel Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, Shane Bowers, Andrew Hammond, conditional 2018 1st round pick (from Ottawa)*, 2018 2nd round pick (from Nashville), 2019 3rd round pick (from Ottawa)

NASHVILLE TRADES: Samuel Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, 2018 2nd round pick

*If Ottawa’s 2018 1st round pick ends up being a top 10 pick, the Sens have the option to give Colorado their 2019 1st round pick instead.

We could go through and look at every piece (the instant analysis can be found here), but a lot has changed now that the tables have turned. Ottawa’s 1st round pick this season is likely going to turn into a very good player (thank goodness Dorion protected it), while the Avalanche are currently battling in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The overall gist for Ottawa was to upgrade their first line centre, and it ended up coming at a decently steep price. Bowers and Hammond haven’t had big seasons by any means, but that first round pick, which will now be transferred to next season, could be the gut-wrencher should the 2018-19 play out similar to this one.

But maybe it’s justified? Matt Duchene has been playing some amazing hockey in the last couple months, after starting off on a cold streak. His 27 goals was the most of any Senator, while also accumulating 19 points in his last 18 games. Since the trade, he’s scored 49 points in 68 games (0.72 P/GP) — by comparison, Turris scored 42 points in 65 games (0.65 P/GP).

Some have linked this trade with Ottawa’s eventual demise, but given what each player has contributed to their teams, it seems like a very post hoc analysis. Duchene has proven to have a very high level of skill, and is still a cemented star in the NHL. Dorion’s goal was to upgrade the immediate roster, and in that sense, he succeeded.

On a more personal level, I’ll never forget the exhilaration of that evening. I don’t think my fingers have ever typed faster, as more and more details started to pour in through Twitter. ‘Announce Duchene’ had become so much of a meme in the Sens’ social media sphere, that when it finally happened, it was a weird, shocking feeling.

Whether or not you think Ottawa won or lost, the Matt Duchene trade will go down as one of the biggest trades in franchise history. It turned a page in the team’s forward corps, and was one of the most memorable moments of the Sens’ season.

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