Among Those With Something to Prove — Look no Further than Anthony Duclair

He’s 23-years-old, on his fourth NHL club in four seasons, and Anthony Duclair wants to be the steal the Blue Jackets are bargaining on.

We’ve had a lot of fun discussing the Columbus Blue Jackets ever-persistent offseason news that won’t go away. The Artemi Panarin saga, life after Sergei Bobrovsky? and everything in between. Check out Pale Dragon’s piece on contracts as it relates to those two aforementioned stars. You might be all in as far as the regular season plays out and playoffs are concerned, ready to risk losing them in free agency. One might play the season out and make that assessment closer to the trade deadline.

Depending on where the team is in the standings, and how management feels about players waiting in the wings — Joonas Korpisalo for instance — can play into how management navigates the season ahead and beyond. If signing a Bobrovsky or Panarin remains a long shot, do you break it up sooner in trades before losing either for nothing next July 1?

Who knows what happens.

With the Vegas Golden Knights continuing to play at a professional high-stakes rate, adding Max Pacioretty to the roster in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens as training camp opens up, that might make you wonder about the return that can fetch Panarin. Tyler Seguin signed an eight-year, $9.85 per-year contract extension with the Dallas Stars, and Matt Duchene is another big forward that can be available next offseason as a UFA.

As PD mentioned, you never know. A trade can blow you out of the water at any time like Saad for Panarin.

Okay, let’s move on.

Let’s talk about something positive, something we haven’t touched upon much.

I want to talk about Anthony Duclair. A player that seems to have a negative label unfairly, or fairly, attached to him.

“I’m a bit embarrassed how it happened. Since my rookie season, the last couple of years have been a bit of a roller coaster. But at the same time, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

It’s a huge wake-up call to be a free agent at 22 years old, definitely not ideal.”

That was Duclair in July, written about in Aaron Portzline’s piece for the The Athletic.

Duclair’s agent, Philippe Lecavalier, the brother of former NHL star Vincent Lecavalier, sought the professional advice and endorsement of his Cup-winning brother’s take on John Tortorella with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Philippe went on to express surprise regarding the soiled reputation of Duclair around the NHL. Despite there being a single incident to attach the two.

“Eighty percent of the teams we talked to mentioned it. It’s incredible how a stupid rumor can impact a player. But there’s a rumor out there regarding his character, and I don’t know how this came about. Probably because he’s been through a few teams already. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Now, I know agent will defend client. It’s his job, guilty or otherwise. I also touched upon Duclair’s arrival upon signing in July, and will reiterate some of what was said then.

In light of the negative perception that seemed to follow Duclair, the Jackets lucked out in getting the winger for the league minimum. A 23-year-old skilled winger on his fourth team is head-scratching in and of itself, without an obvious reason for it besides the fact he’s battled injuries and inconsistencies on the ice. Scratching the surface of his potential with 20 goals, 44 points in 81 games in his second season (2015-16), and just 16 goals in the years since, he has never played above 60 games since that 2015-16 season.

He was also with a team in the Arizona Coyotes, a franchise that has barely managed to crack NHL-relevancy on the ice since they managed a run to the 2012 Western Conference Finals. A team with rumors of relocation amid the teams’ battle with the local government and financial woes.

Those circumstances don’t necessarily impact what Duclair does as a player on the ice, but hey, getting away from any distraction can only help. I would think.

Mark Scheig wrote about Duclair for The Hockey Writers, also trying to piece together what happened to the former (still?) top prospect who fell hard upon garnering Calder votes. With the Coyotes, there were moments in which Duclair was a healthy scratch, whether under coach Rick Tochett, or Dave Tippett, in seasons prior. Both, as Scheig references, citing questions over his preparation and compete level.

Something that Tortorella won’t tolerate, and instead, seems to get the best out of similar players in precarious situations.

If this situation did crash and burn then the Jackets lost out on a low-risk, high-reward type that raked in league minimum. Sam Gagner made good on his low-risk, one-year signing in 2016-17, registering 18 goals, 52 points, which culminated into a three-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks.

“They like what I bring; they like my speed and my skill. They just want me to come in and work hard, and all of that will take care of itself.

As for my role on the team … I’ve always been an offensive guy, but I want to grow my game to (being) a different player. That’s how (the Blue Jackets) play, it doesn’t matter who you are on the team, everybody’s reliable defensively and the offense takes care of itself.”

That’s Duclair, and his thoughts on his new situation in Columbus.

What will he do this season? How much does motivation fuel him — the desire to prove wrong the label that has been affixed to him? That’s what we will have to wait and see as training camp (full schedule inside) draws near and the season opener begins in less than a month.

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