It’s officially trade season, and while the focus is rightly on players like Matt Duchene, or Ben Bishop, there are always several lower-profile players that end up being key acquisitions for teams in the playoff hunt. The Habs are likely in full-on buy mode and will have their hand in many different deals.
Enter Anthony Duclair, the Montreal-native left-winger who hasn’t met expectations on an Arizona Coyotes team that is floundering at the bottom of the NHL standings, and a player rumoured to be available.
Duclair broke into the league with a short stint as a member of the New York Rangers, posting seven points in 18 games before being returned to the QMJHL. He was then shipped to Arizona in a deal that sent Keith Yandle to the Rangers.
In his first full NHL season in 2015-16, Duclair played alongside fellow rookie Max Domi and had a breakout year, recording 44 points, 20 of which were goals.
This year, however, has been a different story. In 41 NHL games he has registered just three goals and six assists. After being sent down to the AHL, he has scored just one goal and added seven assists in 12 games, registering 23 shots on goal.
During his stretch of poor production in the NHL he was made a healthy scratch for Arizona, which kicked off the speculation he may be on the trade block.
With Duclair not producing and the Coyotes likely looking to stock up on draft picks and junior-aged prospects for a rebuild, he could be a prime candidate for a team looking to flesh out its lineup for a Stanley Cup run.
Montreal is one such team looking to add middle-six scoring for a playoff run. While not quite of the pedigree of a Duchene, Duclair won’t require nearly as much in return, and could be the added punch the team needs.
A quick look at his advanced stats shows just how effective Duclair could be, if he can pull his shooting percentage up from about the 5% it’s been this season.
His possession numbers were about team average on a not-very-good Coyotes team, but his scoring chance numbers were excellent, and compared to teammates who could rarely get out of their own end (as they are in image #4 above), those chances are truly incredible.
Looking at individual categories for the 14 most-used Coyotes forwards, you can see that he was a high-event player, ranking second in shot attempts per 60 minutes on the team, but also sporting the third-highest Corsi-against mark. Breaking down his scoring chances, however, it’s clear that those numbers didn’t accurately represent his time with the team this season.
His scoring chances for per 60 minutes of play were about 30% higher than the second-best forward on the team, and he was the only one to crack double digits for each hour of ice time. He was also around the middle of the pack in scoring chances against, which isn’t spectacular, but is very different from what his shot attempt numbers suggest about his defensive play, and much better than top point-producers Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal.
The two categories combined to make him the only Arizona forward to see more chances for his team than were going against his side, and second place wasn’t particularly close.
Is Duclair a fit?
While Max Pacioretty, Alexander Radulov, and Alex Galchenyuk are the primary producers in Montreal, adding a secondary threat like Duclair adds a new wrinkle for the Habs. Playing alongside Tomas Plekanec could do wonders for jump-starting both of their seasons, and force teams to focus on more than the Canadiens’ top line.
The cost to acquire a young, skilled forward can be quite expensive. The Coyotes would have been asking for a substantial amount in return earlier this year. Their initial proposal would likely start with a top-end roster player, likely a top-four (preferably right-handed) defenceman.
Montreal has two defencemen fitting that description: Jeff Petry and Shea Weber. Both of those players are recent acquisitions, signed long term, and Marc Bergevin will not be trading them.
The negotiation from the other side would no doubt point to his lack of production that will have seen Duclair’s stock gradually drop over the course of the season. At this point, the Coyotes may be willing to just take on a warm-blooded asset in exchange.
Moving on to the prospect pool, Noah Juulsen is the only real candidate to fit the bill for Arizona. He’s a young defender, and a right-handed shot who may be able to step into the NHL as soon as next year. It is likely that a draft pick would need to be added on as well, and the Habs are well stocked on second-round selections to sweeten the pot.
While not exactly a blockbuster move, adding Duclair has the chance to pay dividends for Montreal and cost less than a potential move for one of the big-name rentals on the market. He has shown the ability to produce at the top level in the past, and his underlying metrics suggest that the slump he experienced this season is not going to last.