On Thursday, the Colorado Avalanche locked down an integral piece of both the present and future when they gave center Matt Duchene a five-year, $30 million contract extension.
The 22-year-old is coming off a season where he posted 17 goals and 43 points in the lockout-shortened 2012/13 season. For his career, he has 82 goals and 111 assists in 266 games with the Avalanche.
“Matt already is and will be a big part of our team’s nucleus for the long-term,” Avalanche executive vice-president of hockey operations Joe Sakic said in a statement. “We all felt that it was important for us to secure his rights for several seasons. With his great skills, speed, and character, he represents the identity we want the Avalanche to be.”
Signing Duchene to a long-term deal gives the Avalanche more depth at center than they know what to do with. Duchene, Paul Stastny (an unrestricted free-agent after 2013/14), first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon, and Ryan O’Reilly make up the team’s top four centers. O’Reilly will move to the wing given the plethora of skilled players down the middle.
The depth down the middle could also open the team up to trade someone to shore up issues on the defensive end of things. Defense was a huge need going into the draft and continues to be heading into the summer.
As for Matt Duchene, he is still young and growing, possessing all of the talent in the world and looks like he’s finally coming into his own.
For the Avalanche, they paid a steep price — he will have a $6 million cap hit starting next year — but young talents like Duchene command a premium. Not only that, but the team is paying for what they think he will do, not what he has done; always a risk with young players.
Still, the team made the right move in securing the future and building the team for a return to prominence.
Besides, a one-two punch of MacKinnon and Duchene might have Avalanche fans thinking back to a similar combo from the glory days of the ’90s.
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