Nashville and New Jersey made a trade. Big deal, right? Well, yeah, it kind of was. The Predators sent three-time all-star P.K. Subban to the Devils for defensemen Steve Santini and Jeremy Davies along with their 2019 and 2020 second round picks. In addition, the Devils take on the full brunt of Subban’s $9 million a year contract.
So Subban is back in the East and the Devils instantly got better on defense. While that in and of itself is not imposing upon the Blue Jackets, what has been left open on Nashville’s end does. Columbus has a convoy of unrestricted free agents about to leave the building this summer. Bobrovsky is definitely gone. Panarin is almost definitely gone, although there is a glimmer of hope there that he’ll stay (that’s a grain of sand-sized glimmer). Then there is the curious case of Matt Duchene.
Nashville has their wallet open and they most definitely have their crosshairs on Duchene to put him in a mustard jersey next season. Personally, I believe the more Cup-ready team of the two is Columbus. Unless there is some underlying issue in the Blue Jackets locker room, I would think they hockey-loving, competitive side of Duchene’s brain will want to stay put. However, there is always that pro athlete “what I’m worth” mentality that can override the competitive choice.
Duchene came over at the trade deadline in a deal with Ottawa and his offensive talents will be in big demand this summer. Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen has always been big on Duchene since Kekalainen was a scout and Duchene was a prospect. Needless to say, Kekalainen was most likely elated when he landed the skilled forward this past season. That might have been one very brief stay though.
Unfortunately, I have a feeling that we will not see Duchene in a navy sweater next season. Perhaps that is just the pessimist in me. The Jackets need his goal-scoring prowess, but at the same rate, they need to be cautious to not overpay on his services just for the sake of retaining him. At the end of the day, this is still a business and Columbus will need to re-sign other skilled players in-house in a few years, namely standouts like Zach Werenski and Pierre Luc-Dubois.
Duchene raked in $6 million this past season. If we start talking $11 million a year for him, it may be time for Kekalainen to reveal his hand and walk away from the table on this deal.