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30 Thoughts: Summer market for Matt Duchene could still be open

Sportsnet logo Sportsnet 2017-07-13 Elliotte Friedman

• McDavid deal “a significant reset”

• Maybe five teams still interested in Duchene

• Leafs took a big run at Condon

Well, this is it for the summer… the close of a fun year. When you work for Hockey Night in Canada, success of the Canadian teams drives you. Last year, that ride ended like Thelma and Louise’s convertible.

This was very different. Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto served notice that they have a chance for something special, although it was Ottawa that gave the most spectacular chase, dissipating with a painful double-overtime Game 7 defeat in Pittsburgh. That led to a fantastic Stanley Cup Final, where one of the NHL’s best-kept secrets (Nashville) finally got its time to shine. It’s going to be very hard for other organizations to duplicate the in-game experience the Predators can offer, but I hope they try their own individual, localized touch.

Vegas, which signed a deal with Cirque du Soleil, certainly will. There is always room to improve the show, and what we saw in Tennessee should embolden attempts to do so.

In the end, Sidney Crosby stared down the Burnses, the Karlssons, the Laines, the Matthewses and the McDavids, re-affirming he is the best player, nowhere near ready to give up the mantle. Even with him and Evgeni Malkin, this Pittsburgh victory was more about guts than anything. Years ago, player agent Don Reynolds sent me a book by John C. Maxwell entitled Talent is Never Enough. It’s a great read and I believe it to be true.

In 2016, it was the Penguins’ skill and great depth that overwhelmed San Jose. This time, the team set an NHL record by playing 49 post-season games over a two-year span. Those are hard minutes. Many of those Penguins were on fumes as the series progressed, but from 1-to-23, they willed themselves through.

Then, we got down to business.

One year ago, the number was six. Not “The Six,” just six. Young, emerging stars were getting that on their second contracts. Filip Forsberg landed square on $6M. Mark Scheifele came in at $6.125M, Nathan MacKinnon $6.3M, Sean Monahan $6.375M and Johnny Gaudreau $6.75M. That area looked to be “the new normal” for this group.

It lasted barely 12 months.

Last week, Connor McDavid obliterated that ceiling by signing the highest average annual value contract in NHL history, at $12.5M for eight years. (There was an initial verbal agreement at $13.25M, but McDavid, skittish about the reaction to the original number, walked it back.) He will make $15M — the maximum allowable at this time — in the 2018–19 and 2019–20 seasons. Almost 87 per cent of that will be in the form of signing bonuses.

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