The next significant domino to fall in the seemingly never-ending potentially negative storylines surrounding the Ottawa Senators may well be the trade of Matt Duchene.
That’s not to suggest a trade is imminent or even being discussed at this point, but it’s hard to envision a scenario under which the center isn’t dealt by Pierre Dorion before the February 25 deadline.
With the regular season right around the corner, NHL Insider Bob McKenzie was asked for his read on the Duchene situation during a Saturday afternoon appearance on Ottawa’s TSN 1200.
“You know what, I’d just be guessing on that,” admitted McKenzie. “I think the only guy who really knows for sure is Matt Duchene. I don’t think there’s been any declarations one way or the other. I don’t think there’s been any hard and fast conversations between Matt Duchene and the Senators in terms of how this is all going to play itself out.
“So I think what Matt Duchene is probably doing - what I would do if I was him - is let’s just start playing some games and let’s see where this goes. Let’s see what the environment is like. Is it going to be as toxic as everybody thinks it’s going to be. Is it going to be as grim, as difficult to win hockey games as everybody seems to think it’s going to be. Or might this team be a little more competitive, and might the mood and the overall atmosphere and environment around that team be a little more positive than people recognize from the outside looking in. And only he knows that for sure.
“If you judge his quick emotional outburst remark to putting Zack Smith on waivers, and pretty graphic description of how he felt about it - which wasn’t good - you might surmise that he’s predisposed to be on the negative side of the fence as opposed to the positive side.
“But he’s got hockey to be played. As you say, he’s in a contract year. Whether the Senators are a good team, a terrible team, or somewhere in between, one thing I would think Matt Duchene would understand is that he needs to play as well as he possibly can because it’s his future is on the line, whether it’s in Ottawa or somewhere else.
“And I think it’s a little different between say Duchene and Mark Stone, simply because Matt Duchene was in a losing environment in Colorado, and he desperately wanted out of it. From the outside looking in, my question to him would be, ‘How eager would you be to put yourself back in a situation where it may take more than a year or two to get this thing really where it needs to be.’ And that would be for him to answer.
“From the outside looking in, I wonder - or I feel like - there might be a difference in mindset between a guy like Duchene and Stone.”
Duchene is in the last year of his contract and will be 28 years old with a crack at unrestricted free agency in July. Only he knows his plans, to be sure, and we’ll see how the coming months play out on the ice; but it’s just really difficult to see an ending other than Duchene skating for a different team to close out the regular season and then testing free agent waters via the late-June interview period, and signing somewhere other than Ottawa on July 1.
Since Stone is on a one-year deal signed in August, he won’t be eligible to sign any potential extension until January.
Contract-related info via CapFriendly