With leading scorer Matt Duchene on injured reserve and expected out for weeks, what little chances the Ottawa Senators had of making the playoffs this season are likely to slip away. This was always the expected result of the 2018-19 season for Ottawa, but their efforts thus far to stay out of the basement of the NHL have surprised many and inspired some.
However, as reality now begins to finally set in, the team must decide what it wants to do with Duchene and fellow impending free agents Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel. As Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun writes, Duchene — currently tied for ninth in the league in scoring — will likely ask for an eight-year deal in the ballpark of $60M-$70M to remain in Ottawa, reflective of the salary he will likely command on the open market. Stone will be in the same neighborhood, with Dzingel significantly lower albeit not cheap by any means, but the Senators cannot even begin negotiations with the pair until the new year, per the rules pertaining to their recent salary arbitration decisions.
As such, the team is dealing with three high-quality expiring assets without any guarantee that they will be re-sign or if the team will be willing to meet their salary demands. In a season in which Ottawa could finish with one of the worst records in the league but lacks their first-round pick — given to the Colorado Avalanche in the deal that landed Duchene — it stands to reason that general manager Pierre Dorion will strongly consider recouping as much trade capital as possible if extensions are not in place by the trade deadline.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the ownership status of Eugene Melnyk, whose tactics thus far leave much to be desired anyway, Warren believes that Duchene, Stone and Dzingel, as well as any other free agent in the coming offseason, will think twice about a future in Ottawa. All things considered, it’s beginning to look like the trio stand a better chance to all be traded away in the coming months than any of them do of signing a long-term extension.