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2018-19 Player Review: Matt Duchene makes his mark in the playoffs, but will he stay in Columbus?

Matt Duchene came to Columbus days before the trade deadline in February – the first of GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s all in moves as he looked to build a Stanley Cup winner in the final years of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky’s contracts. Duchene was exchanged for a first round pick in 2019, a conditional first rounder in 2020, and prospects Jonathan Davidsson and Vitaly Abramov.

Duchene played 23 games in the regular season with Columbus and struggled to find a fit in the lineup. He only registered 12 points (4-8-12) and played fewer than 18 minutes per night. He was criticized for not doing more as the Jackets barely made the playoffs as an eight seed.

In the playoffs, however, Duchene took off. He played 10 games, notched 10 points, and was one of the best playmakers on the ice for the team. He was instrumental in the sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning and scored the overtime game winner of game two against the Boston Bruins.

Now, all eyes turn to Matt Duchene’s impending free agency. Will he stay in Columbus? Can Jarmo convince him to sign?

It will be the first major test of the summer for the front office.

Matt Duchene 2018-19 Stats

Regular Season (Ottawa)

Games played: 50
Goals: 27
Assists: 31
Points: 58
Time on ice: 19:15
Penalty Minutes: 6
Corsi For (even strength): 48.6%

Regular Season (Columbus)

Games played: 23
Goals: 4
Assists: 8
Points: 12
Time on ice: 17:57
Penalty Minutes: 2
Corsi For (even strength): 47.3%

2018-19 Playoff Stats

Games played: 10
Goals: 5
Assists: 5
Points: 10
Time on ice: 16:48
Penalty Minutes: 0
Corsi For (even strength): 51.2%

Matt Duchene’s Contract Status

Matt Duchene is an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Columbus Blue Jackets absolutely have to keep him.

Duchene was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets days before the deadline and played solidly if unspectacularly in his six week audition before the playoffs. Once the playoffs hit, however, Duchene took off. He scored five goals, posted ten points, was the the Blue Jackets best center in the playoffs, and became a force to be reckoned with for the Jackets.

And, in a matter of days, he could walk away for nothing.

Duchene is coming off of a 5 year $30 million contract that he signed which the Colorado Avalanche following the 2013-14 season. Duchene was traded to the Senators in November 2017 (via the Nashville Predators) before being traded to the Jackets in February 2018. Regardless of his trade history (or apparently now-dead playoff curse), Duchene is going to get paid this summer.

What could that contract look like?

This table suggests that Duchene will get a contract valued around $7 million per season. However, I think some team will pay more than that based on his production in the playoffs coupled with the fact that centers are EXTREMELY hard to find on the open market.

If Columbus is going to keep Duchene (and, I reiterate, they absolutely should), the team will have to pay him on an eight year contract. It might take a deal like eight years, $72 million ($9 million per season) to keep Duchene here. If I’m GM Jarmo Kekalainen, I match that without hesitation.

The Jackets are losing Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Losing Matt Duchene as well would be devastating. Duchene allows every other center to settle into a role more suited to their skill level (including Wennberg in the press box).

Columbus cannot afford to lose out on Duchene. They have to find a way to keep him (even if it is a short term overpay). The last years of the contract may hurt, but that’s another problem for five years from now. Duchene can be a helpful player for a long time, and Columbus has hurt for center depth since basically day one of the franchise. The team cannot, under any circumstances, let him get away.

High Point

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Round one, game two. Columbus leads the series 1-0 on the heels of a massive comeback at Tampa Bay in the third period of game one.

In game two, Matt Duchene put the team on his back.

Duchene played 16:02 (a total of 19 shifts). Matt Duchene score one goal (on the power play), added three assists, and won 62.5% of his faceoffs on the night. Simply put, he led the Jackets to a 2-0 serious lead coming home to Nationwide Arena.

Duchene scored his first five playoff goals in his career for the Blue Jackets in this past postseason. Let’s hope he adds more next season.

Low Point

From February 26 (the day after the trade deadline) until March 7 (the second loss to Pittsburgh in a week and a half), Matt Duchene posted one point and was a -4 in six games. In the immediate aftermath of the trade deadline, fans were questioning whether or not Duchene was cursed, if the trade was worth it, and what role he deserved on the team.

The Jackets lost twice in this time frame to their arch rivals, their nemisis in the Metropolitain Division. In those two games, Duchene posted three shots, a -4 rating, lost his spot between Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson.

Many Jackets fans questioned his fit here. Duchene was visibly uncomfortable as he adjusted to his new team. Duchene picked his play up as March bled into April, but he had no worse stretch in the union blue.

Report Card

How would you grade Matt Duchene’s 2018-19 season?

A 74
B 94
C 9
D 1
F 0