There is no guarantee Matt Duchene will re-sign with the Ottawa Senators and his decision on whether or not to stay in the nation’s capital could hinge on what happens with both Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone.
Duchene is entering the final year of his contract and is eligible to hit the open market when free agency opens next July, just like Karlsson and Stone.
“Those are the things I want to sit back and watch,” Duchene told reporters Friday in Chicago at an NHL Player Media Tour availability. “The nice thing is is I’m kind of the last domino in that sense. Those are things I want to see.”
Karlsson has one year remaining on his deal – his next contract will likely be amongst the most lucrative ever given to a defenceman – but he has been on the trade block for months and it remains unclear if he’ll even play in Ottawa this season. The Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights are reportedly among the leading contenders to acquire the two-time Norris Trophy winner.
Stone, meanwhile, signed a one-year deal in August worth $7.35 million and Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said at the time the contract was “the first step in a process that allows us to continue to negotiate a long-term deal in the new year.” Stone will become eligible to begin discussing an extension on Jan. 1, 2019.
Duchene didn’t spend much five-on-five time playing with Stone in 2017-18 but the two did share some power-play minutes together and Duchene knows how valuable Stone is to the Sens.
“Erik, that’s a little bit different situation, but with [Stone], that’s a guy I’d love to move forward with as a teammate,” Duchene said. “Him doing a one-year deal, it’s a little bit different and makes you think a little bit, but I want to see what he’s saying and we’ll talk through it. Having talked about it, we both really like it in Ottawa and we both want it to work, so that’s the biggest thing.”
Duchene, 27, was acquired by the Sens from the Colorado Avalanche midway through last season and ended up scoring 23 goals and 49 points in his 68 games with Ottawa. The Haliburton, Ont., native has played 654 career regular-season NHL games compared to only eight playoff games, a ratio he hopes to change going forward.
“I want an opportunity to win,” Duchene added. “At this point, when you’re in this situation, and I talked to [Toronto Maple Leafs centre] John Tavares about it a lot last year, it’s hard to pick a team to go to to win the Stanley Cup because the league is so good now. But you want to be competitive. You want to be on a team that is either right there for the playoffs or in the playoffs every year.”
As teams and players around the league prepare for training camps that begin later this month, expectations for the Sens in 2018-19 are low. Still, Duchene is optimistic the current group can exceed those low expectations. They are, after all, only two years removed from coming within one goal of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
“I think we’ve got a lot of speed, a lot of talent and I think people are overlooking a lot of it,” Duchene told reporters in Ottawa earlier this week. “I think some of that talent is going to come from our young guys and I think we’re going to have a chip on our shoulder. I’ve played on some teams where you have a tough year the year before and guys come in hungry and I see that from our guys right now.
“We should have a chip on our shoulder after last year. We’re a lot better hockey team than we showed and we can be a lot better hockey team than people are giving us credit for.”