OPINION: Should Anthony Duclair Be a Habs Trade Target?

Anthony Duclair (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

by Matt Smith, Staff Writer/Social Media Specialist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

After being selected by the New York Rangers 80th overall during the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Anthony Duclair excelled for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL scoring 50 goals and 49 assists in 59 games. He was named to a Canadian World Junior squad that captured gold on home soil in 2015, scoring four goals and adding four assists.

The trade to Arizona

Despite winning a gold medal with Team Canada, the New York Rangers traded Duclair, John Moore, a first round draft pick in 2016 and a second round draft pick in 2015 (later traded) for Keith Yandle, Chris Summers and a fourth round pick in 2016 (Tarmo Reunanen). Arizona flipped the first round pick when they acquired the rights to  Pavel Datsyuk and Detroit’s first round pick, used to select Jakob Chychrun.

Arizona’s GM Don Maloney said, “Anthony Duclair is a dynamic, skilled forward who has size, speed and offensive talent. He will be a valuable addition to our organization.”

This statement appeared true as Duclair scored 20 goals, adding 24 assists in 81 games, in his first full NHL season. This season, Duclair tallied just three goals and six assists in 40 games playing for the second worst team in the league. The Coyotes are being guided by John Chayka, a rookie general manager who is a former colleague of the analytics company Stathletes. Reviewing the stats that his team is achieving this season, I believe his numbers are a little off.

To help put in context Duclair’s 2016-17 season, let’s look at the Canadiens David Desharnais, who also has three goals and six assists but in 14 fewer games. Who knows, if Desharnais hadn’t thrown his first hit of the season, injuring himself in the process, those numbers could be greater!

Rumours

Duclair’s name was tossed into the rumour mill in November when Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos spoke about him on Hockey Night in Canada.

“I’m hearing teams are saying that Duclair could be had at the right price.” At that point in the season, Duclair, a pending restricted free agent, had just one goal and two assists. Kypreos added “If he’s not playing well, what are you truly going to give up? I hear that Arizona would still ask for a pretty penny for him moving forward.”

Shortly after Kypreos spoke about Duclair, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that the Coyotes were not shopping the 21-year-old winger but were listening to offers. Dreger suggested that Arizona would only move Duclair if they received a significant return most likely a good young centre.

“John Chayka, the general manager, is not shopping Anthony Duclair but they’d consider it if there was a significant deal that made sense to them and brought a center back to the Arizona Coyotes. Duclair’s name actually surfaced in Buffalo at the draft in the summer, and more recently has re-surfaced. They’re not pushing him out the door, but like Bob [McKenzie] said with Dougie Hamilton in Calgary, the same thing applies with Duclair — they’re willing to listen.” — Darren Dreger

Point the finger at the GM, blame the coaching staff and the players around him, or just say that Duclair is in a slump. Whatever the issue, it is clear that Duclair could use a change of scenery. Montreal could be an appealing destination for the Quebec native as he’ll become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.  

Could Duclair move?

Right now, you could place Arizona in full sell mode, alongside the Colorado Avalanche who sit at the bottom of the NHL standings. The Montreal Canadiens do have five second round draft picks in the next two drafts (two in 2017 and three in 2018.) However, the Coyotes have had their share of draft selections during their ongoing rebuild so they would probably prefer a roster player or one that is soon to become a regular in the lineup.

Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to a package that Montreal would send to Arizona. Kypreos said that the asking price would be “a pretty penny.” In my opinion, two players that could be moved are Charles Hudon and Sven Andrighetto, who like Duclair, are both RFA’s at the end of the 2016-17 season. Andrighetto has been playing much better as of late, scoring his first goal of the season after a 44 game, 17 point performance last season.

Hudon has scored 131 points in 170 AHL games, and four points in six NHL games. Hudon presently is on the outside looking in having just returned to the St. John’s IceCaps lineup. With the Habs roster growing healthy, combined with the strong play of players such as Artturi Lehkonen, Phillip Danault and Paul Byron, a spot in the top-nine is just not available. I, personally, would like to see Hudon given another chance in the Habs lineup but not to just play on the fourth line or sit in the press box.  

Currently, the Coyotes sit last in goals for at 2.02 per game and second in goals against at 3.16 per game. It’s clear that their needs are considerable. But Arizona has an abundance of young talent on the wing including Max Domi, Lawson Crouse and Brendan Perlini. We can assume that a good quality young centre is high on their shopping list but could Andrighetto or Hudon be part of a package? 

What do you think Habs fans? Would you like to see Marc Bergevin pursue Anthony Duclair? Do the Canadiens have the assets to make such a deal? What would you trade for him?

Please leave your comments below!