Why the Avalanche should trade Landeskog and keep Duchene

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Just one, not both.

That should be the approach of Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic heading toward the March 1 trade deadline, or the summer draft floor, when the team could move one of its star players.

With the Avalanche in the midst of the worst season since the franchise arrived in Denver, change is in order, and that could land center Matt Duchene or winger Gabriel Landeskog in a new area code.

Duchene, 26, is signed through the next two seasons and carries a $6-million cap hit, while 24-year-old Landeskog has four seasons remaining at a cap charge of about $5.57 million annually.

Here's why it makes more sense for Sakic to hang onto Duchene and trade Colorado's captain.

The case for Duchene

No team ever complained about strength down the middle.

Just ask the Los Angeles Kings about having both Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter or the Pittsburgh Penguins about featuring Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Each side has captured two Stanley Cups since 2009.

The Avalanche have their own pair of middlemen in Nathan MacKinnon and Duchene. Three seasons ago, they combined for 133 points en route to MacKinnon winning Rookie of the Year honors. Furthermore, in a game focusing more and more on possession, faceoff strength is critical, and only Anaheim's Antoine Vermette has done better at the dot than Duchene's 61.1 percent success rate (minimum 100 faceoffs).

While not much has gone right in Denver this season, Duchene has done his part, collecting 32 points in 44 games. On pace for 56 points, that's in line with his past two seasons - even more impressive considering the Avalanche haven't had many good nights. They've won just two of their last 22 games.

Captain's goodbye

As for Landeskog, the captain's body of work hasn't been as impressive. With 18 points on the year, he's on pace for his worst full season since he made his NHL debut in 2011.

Landeskog plays a physical brand of hockey, and the Avalanche have an opportunity to cash in on their asset before that approach takes its toll. His contract also doesn't expire until 2021, when Landeskog's best days could already be behind him. The captain's crash-and-bang style would be perfect for a contender this spring, but the Avalanche's days as a contender are still far off, meaning they may not have the opportunity to utilize that strength when it counts.

Filling a need

Sure, Sakic would likely get a bigger return for Duchene, but that's because wingers are the easiest pieces to add. When was the last time a top center or high-end defenseman became available or reached unrestricted free agency? They just don't move, and in the rare case they do, what's surrendered in exchange is painful.

Dealing a wing won't fetch as much. The Edmonton Oilers made a comparable move and set the market by shipping winger Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson, a reliable second-pairing defenseman.

And that's truly the top need for the Avalanche. They already have two top defensemen in Erik Johnson (who's missed the majority of the season with a leg injury) and Tyson Barrie, an excellent puck mover, but the issue is depth. Colorado has rolled through a range of low-end rearguards this season. What the Avalanche sorely need is a true second-pairing blue-liner, and that's what they can get by trading Landeskog while staying strong down the middle and keeping Duchene's production.

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Why the Avalanche should trade Landeskog and keep Duchene
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