Here we are four days into the NHL’s free agency season and if you search Anthony Duclair on the internet, you’ll get a couple of pages of results – many suggesting why team A, B or C could or should take a chance on the kid because he could turn out to be one of those bargain bin buys every team needs. In the weeks leading into UFA season, and even before that, Duclair’s name has been here, there and everywhere.
Be it fan sites like Oilersnation or MSM sites, it’s been duly noted Duclair, a left-winger who doesn’t turn 23 until August and is a former 20-goal scorer, might be a low-cost, high-reward for teams, including the Edmonton Oilers, who’ve already bolstered their line-up with smart-bet additions Kyle Brodziak and Tobias Rieder. Even with those additions, Duclair’s name has been put out there as a possibility for the Oilers.
Oilers could use a 14th FWD in 700K range.
Any of these guys could make sense:
Tyler Ennis-skilled, but banged up last 3 seasons
Scottie Upshall-quick, competitive, can PK
Anthony Duclair-fast, struggled last 2 seasons
Lance Bouma-plays hard
Jason Chimera-can still skate
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) July 3, 2018
While there’s no endorsement of the Oilers pursuing Duclair by Stauffer, it does qualify as another mention, and maybe one worth noting given where it’s coming from. My first question when it comes to Duclair is pretty straightforward: if he is such a bargain, why hasn’t anybody snapped him up already? Why is a guy who scored 50 goals with the Quebec Remparts and 20 with the Arizona Coyotes in 2015-16 still available?
Simply put, there are a number of red flags when it comes to Duclair, who was drafted 80th overall by the New York Rangers in 2013, traded to Arizona in the Keith Yandle deal in March 2015 and then traded to the Chicago Blackhawks last January. Chicago chose not to make Duclair a qualifying offer this off-season. Four seasons into his NHL career, Duclair’s next team will be his fourth.
Questions about Duclair go back to his days with the Remparts. Duclair and teammate Adam Erne were suspended by Patrick Roy for one game for “attitude issues.” Ranked as an early-to-mid second-rounder by many scouting agencies in his draft year, TSN’s Bob McKenzie provides from insight into why Duclair fell to the Rangers here. In that item, McKenzie shared a scouting report: “We thought he was selfish with too much ‘me’ and not enough ‘we’ in his game, plus he played careful. He didn’t want to pay the price against tough competition but lit up weak teams.”
Despite his 20 goals and a promising start in Arizona after being traded by New York, Duclair was dealt to Chicago. Arizona GM John Chayka said: “It’s gone back for a few years now where the team wasn’t particularly happy with the player and the player wasn’t particularly happy with the team and we worked through some things, tried a lot of different approaches in a lot of different ways. I hope he has success in Chicago and does good things.
“There’s a lot of things that go into a trade. Some of them are readily apparent. You see Anthony play and his speed and skill is obvious to everyone. There are some things I think should stay behind closed doors. It was a long process. We went through a lot of different approaches and a lot of different things through two different (coaching) staffs here and at the end of the day just felt that for both sides it was best to move on.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
So, here we are. Four seasons and three teams after he broke into the NHL, Duclair remains available four days into free agency. I don’t know Duclair. I’ve never talked to him. I can’t say he’s a bad kid because I don’t know. Maybe, as is the case with a lot of young players, he simply needs to do some growing up and figure out what it takes to be a good pro. If that happens, maybe Duclair ends up being that bargain teams are looking for.
My guess is somebody is going to take a chance on him this off-season, likely sooner than later – maybe the Montreal Canadiens, who have former Arizona teammate Max Domi. This is one of those cases, though, that’s definitely buyer beware, as tempting as the upside might be. As it pertains to the Oilers, if I’m GM Peter Chiarelli, I’m taking a pass.