With Matt Duchene to Columbus made official, it’s important to look at the trade from the perspective of both teams. While for Ottawa this signifies another step in their so-called rebuild, this is also a massive move for the Blue Jackets. Ryan Real and Elaine Shircliff from The Cannon have answered three questions on the Duchene trade, which you can find below.
Q: How does the addition of Matt Duchene affect the roster makeup of the Columbus Blue Jackets?
Ryan: The Blue Jackets have been searching for a “true No. 1 center” since time immemorial. It was supposed to be Derick Brassard, it was supposed Jeff Carter, it was (briefly) Ryan Johansen, it was supposed to be Alex Wennberg. The 20-year-old Pierre-Luc Dubois has finally emerged as that true top pivot in only his second NHL season, but the addition of Matt Duchene turns a position of relative weakness for Columbus into a strength. Duchene’s a proven star in the middle and will allow the club some flexibility to move the disappointing Wennberg down in the lineup and Boone Jenner back to the wing. Duchene may not even play on the top line immediately, given the current chemistry between Panarin, Dubois and Cam Atkinson. The Blue Jackets add Duchene without giving up a roster player, which adds another level to an already staunch group of forwards that certainly needs top-end help. Duchene can also help Dubois develop as a center, assuming he sticks around. It’s been no secret that Jarmo Kekalainen has been eyeing Matt Duchene for years, and he finally got him.
Q: With two other pending UFAs in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, how do you think this trade ties in with their situation, if at all?
Ryan: This trade does two things simultaneously with respect to Panarin: it takes one of the top forwards at this deadline off the market in Duchene, creating a little more scarcity, and it establishes a baseline for what it would take to get Panarin out of Columbus. Two first round picks (assuming he signs) and two higher-end prospects for Duchene means Panarin should fetch even more, although Nick Kypreos says the deal means he won’t be traded anyway. Adding another UFA at the deadline who may or may not sign carries a hefty risk, but fortune favors the bold. Right? At least that’s what Jarmo Kekalainen has to be thinking.
Q: What are your thoughts on the players heading the other way, in Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson? Do you think the trade return was reasonable?
Ryan: Getting Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson is a solid return for the Senators. When it came out that those two were in the mix, it seemed like the CBJ fan consensus was “those two and some picks, and that’s fair.” Abramov came into 2018 training camp after tearing it up in the QMJHL with a shot at making the big club, but he’s struggled to adjust to pro hockey at the AHL level with 22 points in 52 games. He seems a little too slow for his 5’9” frame but possesses some serious offensive talent, if he can make the leap. We ranked him at No. 11 in our Top 25 Prospects Under 25, and he’s only 21. Davidsson’s another guy who entered camp with an outside shot of making the team thanks to his speed and scoring prowess. He’s a Swedish Hockey League product (still there, due to the NHL/SHL agreement) whose stock has risen in the organization this year and enjoyed a pretty good preseason for Columbus. It stings to lose guys like that, but that’s what you have to give up for a player like Duchene.
BONUS: AHL writer Elaine Shircliff has also graciously provided us with additional information on Vitaly Abramov. Here are her thoughts:
Vitaly Abramov can be a bit of an anomaly sometimes. There are moments of brilliance out of Abramov where you wonder how in the world he was able to pull off a wraparound goal or a crazy pass from behind the net. Then there are times where you are left scratching your head wondering how he managed to turn over the puck while on a breakaway.
Coach Madden is super patient and put a lot of time in with him this season on making the simple plays and being more defensive. Up until a few weeks ago, Abramov was getting manhandled and tossed around on almost every shift.
If Abramov is with a coach and organization who are incredibly patient, you will see him start to flourish. The fact is, Abramov is likely not a quick fix for the Senators organization. However, if they are playing the long game, Abramov will grow into a good NHL player. The key is being patient and communicating with him.
Huge thanks to Ryan and Elaine for taking the time to keep us informed. You can read their work over at The Cannon.