COLUMN: Make The Move, Jim

We are fortunate to have a general manager who’s as good at his job as Jim Rutherford is. He turned a lackluster roster with a “bare cupboard” of prospects into a Stanley Cup champion with prospects that were as vital to a run as Sidney Crosby.

Rutherford did that by acquiring guys such as Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley and getting rid of guys like David Perron and Rob Scuderi to do so. Both Hagelin and Daley made this team faster and really began driving home what Mike Sullivan really envisioned this team to be. A fast, relentless, up-tempo team. His philosophy hasn’t changed.

So how do you make a team that’s looked very flat and lackluster at times faster? You add more speed.

I’ll bet my house the Penguins REALLY like Avalanche center Matt Duchene. He all but epitomizes what the Penguins are. He’s a speedy, relentless, up-tempo forward that can score with ease.

The Penguins have sent their entire front office short of Jim Rutherford to Avalanche games to watch and it’s pretty clear what their intentions are. They like Matt Duchene.

A team fortunate enough to have both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin only has a window as long as their careers last. It’s worth trading away your future to acquire a guy like Duchene.

Can you imagine a roster next year in which your star players are Crosby, Malkin, Phil Kessel, Duchene, Kris Letang, and Matt Murray? And that’s just your stars. We are talking “3-in-6” type aspirations. Duchene would be under contract for the rest of this season and the two following seasons.

Duchene wouldn’t be an easy get. You’d have to part with pieces that take away significantly from your future. I’ll take a gander at what it may take.

Pittsburgh Trades: Olli Maatta, Eric Fehr, and a 2017 first round pick.

Colorado Trades: Matt Duchene.

The Avalanche are on pace for one of the worst seasons in NHL history. They have pieces they can unload to gear for a rebuild. Trading Olli Maatta to a new team could really help his development. He’s a system defenseman. His diminished speed could play into Colorado’s advantage. It gives the Avalanche a very good defenseman that, if he really blossoms, is a steal at $4 million. The Penguins like and believe in Maatta. He is likely to miss the regular season but the Avalanche are already geared towards making a run next year. Maatta will be ready for next season.

Obviously, the first round pick would be very enticing to the Avalanche. It gives them two in the upcoming draft to build around Nathan MacKinnon, their obvious franchise player. Eric Fehr would just be a throw-in veteran to get a few million off of the cap to make their core affordable.

The Penguins would get their man in Duchene who brings loads of scoring talent. Just think on this line: Hagelin-Duchene-Kessel. That’s the fastest line in NHL history. I don’t care what anyone says. The Penguins would be a very scary team.

The ball is in your court, Jim. Forget the future for now. Crosby and Malkin have Stanley Cups to win. If you can bring a superstar like Duchene in to complement Crosby and Malkin, you take the chance and run. Make the move, Jim.

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