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MacKinnon hopes Duchene stays with Avalanche

'If he's on the team, that would be great,' center says of trade rumors

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon doesn't claim to possess any psychic powers, so he isn't trying to predict center Matt Duchene's future, with trade rumors heating up again and NHL training camps opening next week.

But MacKinnon wouldn't mind if Duchene is a member of the Avalanche when they open their season against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 5.

 

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"Like I've said before, I'm not the GM. I just play with whoever is on the team," the 22-year-old said during the NHL Player Media Tour on Wednesday. "Obviously, [Duchene] has been a good player for us for the four years I've played with him and he's been in the NHL for eight years now. If he's on the team, that would be great, and right now he is, so moving forward, we're with him."

Duchene's name has been mentioned in trade rumors since before the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline on March 1. Colorado general manager Joe Sakic has said the Avalanche need to make changes after they went 22-56-4 and had 48 points last season, the fewest in the NHL by 21 points. But the Avalanche have not made a trade during the offseason, and the uncertainty seems to be weighing on Duchene to the point he told NHL.com on Aug. 2 he thought of himself as not being associated with any NHL team.

"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," said Duchene, 26. "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."

Video: Matt Duchene absent from captain's practice

The Avalanche veterans are scheduled to report for training camp Sept. 14, and there is growing speculation Duchene will not be among them. When asked by TSN on Tuesday if Duchene plans to report for Avalanche training camp, his agent, Pat Brisson, said, "All I want to say is, for the moment Matt is skating in Toronto."

But Duchene was in Vail, Colorado, over the weekend to attend a friend's wedding before heading back to Ontario, with most Avalanche veterans skating in informal practices in Colorado this week. MacKinnon said he has spoken to Duchene "a little bit" over the summer and expects him to be there with the rest of the Avalanche for training camp -- if he isn't traded before then.

"I do," MacKinnon said. "He's got two years left on his contract, so I assume he'll be at camp. I don't know. I don't know what's going on with that."

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has similar sentiments after leading an informal practice of more than 20 players Tuesday.

"I talked a little bit with [Duchene]. He's not here, that's not a secret," Landeskog told the Denver Post. "But we'll have to wait and see. As of right now, he's part of the Avalanche organization and we all expect him to be here when training camp starts. I don't really know what else to tell you right now."

Duchene's 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists) in 77 games last season were the fewest in his NHL career after he scored a career-high 30 goals and had 59 points (29 assists) in 76 games in 2015-16. He would help any team in need of a second-line center and could possibly bring the Avalanche the help on defense Sakic has said they are seeking.

Or Duchene could remain with the Avalanche and the cloud of uncertainty hanging over him, and the team, could linger. So getting the situation settled before the season opens might be beneficial.

"Any of us can be traded, so it's not like it's a contract holdout," MacKinnon said. "So there's nothing to be settled. It's just if Joe wants to trade him. I hear all the same things you guys do. I don't have any scoops. [Duchene] is a great player and we'd love to have him back."

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