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Anthony Duclair’s time with Coyotes likely nearing an end

Arizona Coyotes left wing Anthony Duclair (10) in the first period during an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Saturday, Dec 16, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There is no guarantee that general manager John Chayka will find a trade partner that will offer a suitable return for forward Anthony Duclair, but with 53 days remaining before the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline, it is safe to assume that Duclair will not be with the team in March.

The Athletic’s Craig Custance reported that Duclair’s camp had requested a trade; an oddly timed piece of information since Duclair has been available at least a year.

“Hey, we know you’re trying to trade Anthony, but we’d like you to trade Anthony.“

Two NHL sources told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Thursday that trade discussions regarding Duclair continue, but while there has been more talk as the deadline approaches, any suggestion that things are heating up may be an over-statement of the situation.

It has been a tumultuous 15 months for Duclair.

It took until Sept. 2 for the Coyotes to agree on a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the restricted free-agent right winger. Coyotes general manager John Chayka said at the time that he offered Duclair and agent Kent Hughes three different contract options with varying term and average annual value. The dollar amount was lower on the longer-term deals so Duclair chose the one-year option.

Duclair had little leverage in negotiations after a five-goal, 15-point sophomore NHL season that resulted in his demotion to Tucson of the American Hockey League. He had less leverage after that demotion failed to produce results — just one goal and eight points in 16 games with the Roadrunners — but negotiations continued until 11 days before training camp opened.

The Coyotes acquired Duclair on March 1, 2015, in a trade that sent defenseman Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers and brought defenseman John Moore, a conditional first-round draft pick in 2016 and a 2015 second-rounder. The Rangers also got defenseman Chris Summers and a 2016 fourth-round pick.

Duclair scored 20 goals in his rookie season. That production and the fact that he was not paired with the best of playmakers last season may have been his arguments for holding out for more money, but he was destined for a regression last season.

He scored on an unsustainable 19 percent of his shots in 2015-16. The average shooting percentage for NHL forwards was 10.58 percent that season and 10.75 percent last season. Duclair shot just 6.6 percent last season.

In 31 games this season, Duclair has seven goals (on 10.9 percent shooting) and 13 points, but he is averaging just 13:20 of ice time (10th among regular Arizona forwards) and he has been a healthy scratch 10 times.

When asked for an explanation, here is what coach Rick Tocchet said recently: “You have to give effort. You’ve got to know the system. You’ve got to know where you’re going. It’s not on your own program. I’m not saying it’s just him. I’m not trying to pick on him. I just don’t think the effort’s there, quite frankly, on every night.”

This isn’t the first time Duclair has been in a coach’s doghouse. Former Coyotes coach Dave Tippett wanted more from Duclair, and Duclair had similar issues in juniors. That track record is hard to ignore.

There have also been problems with Duclair’s consistency, in-game focus and situational awareness, problems that have persisted this season despite constant cajoling from the coaches.

On the other hand, it is hard to ignore Duclair’s speed and ability to score in limited opportunities this season; a tantalizing combination if it can ever be harnessed. Duclair’s 1.02 goals scored per 60 minutes played is the third best mark on the team. So is his 0.88 goals per 60 minutes at even strength, and he is still sixth among forwards in Corsi For percentage (48.05).

Why is he singled out in a sea of players that has made a litany of mistakes in a 9-27-5 start? Weren’t Tocchet’s communication skills and ability to get through to younger players a key bullet point on his resume this summer? Why then, after four months, are the Coyotes so willing to pull the plug so quickly on a 22-year-old player who scores — on a team that is second to last in the NHL in goals per game (2.27)?

There must be more than meets the eye, but now both sides are seeking a fresh start.

The market for Duclair wasn’t strong after last season’s performance. It’s difficult to say how much it has improved in light of his current situation, but with both sides trying to find him another home, something likely will give.

Maybe that will happen quickly if a team calls with a good offer. History suggests it will happen closer to the trade deadline.

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