TORONTO -- Picturing what's to come in the fall, in training camp, all those last-minute preparations that go into an NHL season has been difficult for Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene because of the unyielding trade rumors that are following him like his own shadow.
"When you're in the weight room or you're on the ice you visualize yourself in a rink or playing with certain players," Duchene told NHL.com in Toronto on Wednesday. "I've almost felt blind this summer because I haven't really been able to do that."
Trade rumors involving Duchene have been gradually picking up steam since before the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline on March 1. They ran rampant before, during and after the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago in late June. The rumors and questions about his future continue considering Duchene has two years remaining on his contract worth an average annual value of $6 million.
Duchene neither denied the validity of the rumors nor suggested they have been blown out of proportion.
"I think it's accurate," Duchene said. "There's obviously some false info out there, but for the most part it's part of the game. We're a team that has struggled to find its way. I'm going to be a free agent in two years and things might have to change. They might want to look in a different direction."
Colorado general manager Joe Sakic hasn't commented on the Duchene trade rumors, but he has said the Avalanche can't stand pat after winning 22 games and finishing last in the NHL standings with 48 points last season.
Sakic is on record saying he'd like to upgrade Colorado's defense and the prevailing thought is Duchene is his best chip to play in a trade to do that. However, the fact Duchene hasn't been traded yet suggests Sakic is willing to have him open training camp with the Avalanche next month.
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Duchene said he hasn't thought that far ahead.
"I'll deal with that when I have to get to it," Duchene said. "There are some decisions that have to be made still, but I'm just going to be a bystander of that. We'll see what happens."
For now, Duchene said he's focusing on his training and leaving any team association he has out of his workouts.
"Divorced is a strong word so I wouldn't say that, but I think I've made it so that [any team association] is not part of my identity," Duchene said. "My identity will be with a team come training camp. I don't know what team that is yet, but my identity right now needs to be strong in myself and belief in myself."
The belief is important because in addition to the trade rumors, Duchene is trying to get over his worst season since 2011-12, when he was limited to 58 games because of injuries and scored 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists).
Duchene had 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists) and was an NHL career-worst minus-34 in 77 games last season. He had one goal in 21 games from Feb. 21-April 2. He had 12 points in his final 36 games of the season.
"It's stuff I really can't even explain when I look back at it, but it's stuff that happened and it's a good learning process," Duchene said. "There's a quote I keep coming back that I read: 'The only way you fail is by not getting up and trying again.' That's the only way you really fail. So, yeah, was it a blip on the radar for me this year? Yeah. But at the same time I'm motivated as ever to get back to where I can be. I know what I'm capable of. I know what I can do. Whoever I'm playing for come the fall, whether it's the Avs or another team, that's what I'm going to try and do."
Duchene said that new approach, necessary because of the constant trade rumors and uncertainty, has enabled him to have a successful and enjoyable offseason. It hasn't mattered to him that he's been training blind.
"Last summer, my first thing was the [World Cup of Hockey 2016], so I pictured myself in the first game in Columbus against the U.S. when I was in the weight room," Duchene said. "Then it was the game in Ottawa against the U.S., and so on and so on. It's kind of like a map in a way. I haven't had that map this year and I think it's a good thing because I think I've gotten back to just enjoying playing the game. I've really enjoyed my summer skates. I'm really enjoying this week here at the PEP Camp. It's just staying in the moment and trying to be the best player and pro you can be every day. Be the best version of yourself.
"Whatever jersey I'll be wearing come training camp I'll be wearing, and I'll be the best I can be for that team."