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Rumor Roundup: MacKinnon no longer considered untouchable

Lyle Richardson
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Rumor Roundup: MacKinnon no longer considered untouchable

Nathan MacKinnon.

Author: Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

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Rumor Roundup: MacKinnon no longer considered untouchable

Lyle Richardson
By:

While the Avalanche trade rumors focused on Duchene and Landeskog, reports suggest they would at least listen to offers for MacKinnon.

For months, the Colorado Avalanche trade speculation focused upon center Matt Duchene and left winger Gabriel Landeskog. Center Nathan MacKinnon was considered among their few untouchables.

But according to the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson, the Avs could listen to offers for the 21-year-old MacKinnon. He said some pro scouts believe they'll entertain trade proposals for everyone but rookie winger Mikko Rantanen.

That would mean a significant shift for the Avs, perhaps even a sign of just how desperate management has become to find a suitable deal to reverse their fortunes. For the first time in MacKinnon's four-season NHL career, he leads the Avs in scoring (51 points) and could be considered their franchise player.

If they are willing to listen to offers for MacKinnon, the decline this season in the production of Duchene and Landeskog could have something to do with it.

The 26-year-old Duchene is mired in a horrible second-half slump. Of his 37 points this season, only 15 came since Dec. 20. In his last 20 games, he has only one point.

Landeskog, 24, managed only 29 points in 67 games. It's his worst output in a non-lockout year since joining the league in 2011-12, marking the first time he won't reach 50 points in a full season.

Leading up to the trade deadline, there was speculation the Avs wanted a good young defenseman or goaltender, a first-round pick, a top prospect and more for Duchene or Landeskog. While several clubs expressed interest in both, none wanted to meet that asking price. Their struggles this season makes it even less likely the Avs will find a better market for either this summer.

MacKinnon, however, could be a different story. That he's put up solid numbers on the moribund Avalanche suggests he could do much better with a deeper club. His best seasons are still ahead of him.  His offensive skills and considerable upside could fetch that big return the Avalanche seek.

There's no harm in the Avs listening to trade proposals for MacKinnon. Moving him, however, would be a big mistake. He's their foundation player, the guy they must rebuild around. Unless a player of equal value is part of the return, it's doubtful the Avs will trade him.

RASK THE SOLUTION, NOT THE PROBLEM, FOR BRUINS

A four-game losing skid in mid-March threatened the Boston Bruins chances of securing a playoff berth. That sparked grumbling among some Bruins followers suggesting starting goalie Tuukka Rask was letting the club down.

Things came to a head on March 25, when a lower-body injury forced the 30-year-old Rask to miss a key game against the New York Islanders. Backup Anton Khudobin picked up the win for the Isles, prompting CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty to recommend the Bruins stick with Khudobin in their next game regardless of Rask's status.

Haggerty also suggested there was “a real issue developing with Rask and how much trust the Bruins can have in him when the games matter most.” Noting the decline in the netminder's stats since the All-Star Game break, Haggerty wondered if Rask was either playing hurt, potentially upset with coach Bruce Cassidy's criticism of his play in an earlier loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, or mentally drained from his heavy workload this season.

Whatever the reason, Haggerty felt the Bruins couldn't count on Rask over the remainder of the season. He wondered if it was time they consider other goalie options in the off-season, as Rask's full no-trade coverage expires when this season ends.

But it was Rask, not Khudobin, who returned to action against the Predators. He won that tilt, as well as his next two starts, displaying the form that earned him a Vezina Trophy in 2014 and his $7-million annual salary-cap hit.

Because of Rask's solid play, the Bruins widened their lead over the Islanders and surging Lightning for the final wild-card spot in the East. With three games remaining in the Bruins' season, including crucial ones against division rivals like the Lightning and Ottawa Senators, they could stick with their starter the rest of the way.

If the Bruins make a significant move this summer, it won't involve moving Rask. If anything, they'll try to find a reliable backup, something they've been missing in recent years. Shoring up the blueline will also help alleviate some of Rask's heavy workload.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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Rumor Roundup: MacKinnon no longer considered untouchable