Into The 2019 NHL Unrestricted Free Agent Class: Matt Duchene
It's not just money with a Matt Duchene deal for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
© Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

July 1st starts the free agent frenzy. Now, Matt Duchene presents himself as a high-value unrestricted free agent. The question becomes who will pay him the dollars he and his agent are seeking. Let’s take a look at how we got to this point and what might be next.

Matt Duchene helped by the Ottawa Express?

Duchene heated up Ottawa with 58 points in 50 games including 27 goals on just 126 shots (21.4%). There appeared to be little signs of regression either even despite trade rumors galore.

This included five power-play goals and 12 man-advantage points. Those are not spectacular numbers but about a point every four games. The even-strength points were much better along with the scoring chances.

Possession metrics were a bit over +3% above average in Ottawa as the best defense was a good offense. Duchene’s contract year lifted not only himself but Ryan Dzingel and Thomas Chabot as well.

Now, the expectation was wherever he wound up, Duchene automatically benefitted the top-six and power-play units. That is not quite how it started.

The Columbus Blue Jackets impression

Unfortunately, the center started poorly when traded to Columbus. His 12 points in 23 games were nothing special. His play overall regressed. Chances went down, shots went down, points went down, etc. The Blue Jackets thought they got a bit of a lemon probably. Even his possession metrics went down on a much better team. It was mystifying.

However, the story changed when the playoffs came. Matt Duchene finished up with ten points in ten games. Also, he was largely responsible for helping Columbus sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning of all teams. That upset created shockwaves throughout the hockey community and increased Duchene’s potential cash flow.

Now, there were some concerns. Duchene averaged less than two shots per game in the playoffs, played less than 17 minutes a night, and benefitted from some ridiculous luck. However, a player creates his own luck sometimes and the center was often in the right place at the right time.

Duchene’s relative possession metrics were several percentage points above average for Columbus in the playoffs. Furthermore, the subsequent playoffs and offseason saw some hefty contracts handed out. Those included:

Alas, the Kevin Hayes deal is the big one for Duchene since they are both centers. The Skinner contract aids Duchene from a production comparison standpoint.

What does it all mean for Matt Duchene now? 

According to Evolving Wild, the forward’s projected salary is approximately six years at an AAV of about $6.963 million. Oddly, his production could have been better in Columbus but those playoff numbers were solid. Matt Duchene turned a lot of heads during that run.

Then, we present Sean Tierney’s charts from Tableau. Duchene ranked respectfully well in several metrics on a horrid Ottawa franchise. He generated enough chances but did exceed goal production compared to expected goals by a fair margin.

Also, note that performance usage is accurate. There was this sense that Duchene could turn it around in Columbus and he did at the perfect time.

It is the main reason why that the forward could get $8+ million AAV in his next deal. On the other hand, there are reports out there that suggest Duchene could get north of $9 million even.

What could be the number for Matt Duchene?

Therefore, here lies the ballpark figure of $8.5-9.5 million AAV that sites have been centering on. Roughly translated the number could come in less or even more depending on when Duchene signs. It sounds crazy but this market has been irrevocably driven up by previous signings.

The crazy town is here with reckless abandonment and full of vigor. With again that Kevin Hayes deal, the sky may just be the limit for Duchene. Let’s face facts. Duchene has 60+ point seasons (three), 30+ goal seasons (two), and Hayes has none.

A Look Into the Kevin Hayes Deal with the Philadelphia Flyers