As the season and playoffs wore on, a lack of scoring depth was highlighted as an area of weakness for the New York Islanders. Now, they’re candidates for an upgrade in free agency. For the month of June, we’ll be taking a look at different free agents the Islanders could target on July 1. The first potential target: Matt Duchene.
WHY IS HE A FIT?
Duchene will be one of the most highly-coveted free agents should he hit the market and to go along with Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson, the Islanders would have excellent center depth upon adding Duchene. He had a career-high 31 goals to go along with 70 points in 73 games this year between Ottawa and Columbus– the kind of numbers that could add the offensive punch New York is looking for. None of the organization’s top prospects are centers and adding a free agent up the middle could be the answer, while prospects like Oliver Wahlstrom could soon fill in on the wing.
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS?
One potential wrench is Brock Nelson’s recent deal. Nelson may fit better as a very strong third-line center than playing on the second line, however at $6M per year it would be an expensive price for a third-line center while adding the likes of Duchene. By the time Mathew Barzal has a new contract, the addition of Duchene would likely mean investing over a quarter of the team’s salary space into three centers.
The other problem here is obvious, being that the Islanders, if interested, wouldn’t be the only team looking to entice Duchene to sign with them. As stated earlier, Duchene will be one of the most sought-after free agents on the market and if New York is looking to take a run at him, it means shelling out serious money. Which brings us to…
WHAT COULD THE DEAL LOOK LIKE?
Duchene wouldn’t come cheap. You can expect him to get the maximum seven-year term no matter where he signs. When it comes to the AAV, considering Jeff Skinner was rumoured to be negotiating between $8.5M and $9.5M per year, Duchene won’t come any cheaper. Skinner had 40 goals this year but keep in mind that Duchene averaged 34.8 goals per 82 games, then add in not only that Duchene is a center but that he also averaged 78.6 points per 82 games compared to Skinner’s 63 points and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Duchene haul in around $9.5 million per year.
Whether we can expect New York to be willing to pay that price is anyone’s guess. However what we can expect is the Islanders to be in the mix of teams pursuing top forwards and Duchene could be one of them.