Though they haven’t made the big splash that other teams have this off season, Columbus is doing a good job of solidifying their forward depth. First it was Riley Nash, and then Thursday afternoon came the signing of free agent winger Anthony Duclair.
It’s a one-year deal for $650K as reported by Aaron Portzline of The Athletic.
Sometimes the pendulum can swing too far the other way on a once-highly touted prospect. Though he was a third-round pick in 2013, he was the centrepiece in the Keith Yandle trade while still playing in the QMJHL. He had a 20-goal season with the Coyotes but never really recaptured the magic of 2015-16. He found his way to Chicago last year before free agency this year.
When you’re a centrepiece for a player of Yandle’s calibre, the expectation is that you’re going to be a star. Duclair has not been a star, but it doesn’t mean he’s been bad. Over his three years, which includes his 15-point campaign in 2016-17 (58 games), he has a points/60 minutes rate of 1.65. That mark ties him with Nazem Kadri and Mathieu Perreault, and is slightly ahead of names like Tanner Pearson, Alex Killorn, David Perron, and Boone Jenner. The latter two just got multi-year deals within the last week. His on-ice expected goals percentage per 60 minutes relative to his team (4.05) is higher than names like Bo Horvat, Gabriel Landeskog, and Jakob Silfverberg. So no, maybe Duclair hasn’t been the top-line winger some people hoped he'd be, but he’s very much an NHLer who can contribute in a third-line role with some power-play minutes.
The question with Columbus is where he fits in. He’s absolutely not taking the first-line role from Artemi Panarin so it’s a matter of where they see Duclair in relation to Jenner. It might not even matter; Panarin played a lot at five-on-five last year, clocking in at 16 minutes a game and Josh Anderson was next at 14:49. After Anderson, six Jackets forwards finished within a minute of each other in five-on-five TOI. Whether Duclair is on the “second” line or the “third” line, the TOI difference isn’t significant enough to either target or avoid him.
It’s also a matter of the power play. Columbus struggled mightily on the man advantage for most of last year so John Tortorella probably won’t be locked into any combination. Just that whichever unit is the top unit will eat a lot of minutes. Duclair probably finds himself there at some point, just not consistently.
All that said, I’m not sure Duclair is a guy to target out of the gate unless we get clarity with his role in training camp. He is not a multi-category performer by any stretch, be it shots, PIMs, or real-time stats. He’s a points-only option. Unless you’re in a very deep league, don’t worry about drafting him, just keep an eye on his usage. If he can sneak to that top PP unit, he could have value in 12-team leagues at times this year.
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