Senators nearing decision time on Duchene, Stone, Dzingel

The Hockey Night panel looks at the biggest stories from around the NHL as the trade deadline approaches.

The NHL Trade Deadline is just over two weeks away — do you know where your pending UFAs are?

If you’re an Ottawa Senators fan, it sounds like you’ll know soon.

“Ottawa is letting teams know if any of their players are going to be available, including the three key ones: Duchene, Dzingel, and Stone,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said during Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “Teams will know about 10 days out before the deadline hits, so that looks like it’s the middle of next week, when Ottawa will begin to let other teams know, are any of those UFAs going to be on the market … or are they going to be staying Senators.”

The trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 25, so that means Feb. 15 could be a date Senators fans might be circling.

A quick refresher: All three players — Duchene, Stone, and Dzingel, are due to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in their respective careers on July 1. Duchene’s current cap hit of $6 million would make him an affordable option for a contender looking to add some star power up front. The Senators could have locked up Stone, 26, last summer when he was a restricted free agent but the two sides instead agreed on a one-year deal worth $7.35 million — essentially buying both sides an extra year and delaying any decisions. Dzingel, 26, wouldn’t garner as big a return on the trade market — or as high a cap hit on a new deal — but his play has been a bright spot for this rebuilding club, and he’s endeared himself to fans during his time in the nation’s capital. The trio makes up the Senators’ top three goal-scorers this season, with 71 goals among them.

“I think the big one that has to make a decision here is Matt Duchene,” Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston said. “There have been extensive talks this week with his agent, Pat Brisson, and Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. A lot of those discussions, actually, have been about the future of the franchise, what they’re expecting in terms of their window to get back to respectability, and things going on with the arena. And what it really comes down to now is what Matt Duchene wants and he hasn’t been given a firm deadline from the Senators, when he has to make his choice, but with the sides set to talk again on Monday, he knows this is coming to a head.”

Johnston also noted that Duchene “really does love it in Ottawa,” and added another potential option for the two sides:

“Even if he weren’t to sign now and was traded at the deadline, I don’t think he’d rule out a potential return on July 1 as a free agent,” Johnston said.

A few weeks ago, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the Senators had issued an offer to Duchene, and suggested Saturday that the long-term offer could be his best shot at his biggest paycheque.

“In past weeks, we’ve talked about the offer on the table from the Ottawa Senators being $64 million over eight years. Many believe that will be the best cash offer he will get,” Kypreos said. “Remember: if he goes and signs with another team July 1, he can only max out seven years. To match that offer from Ottawa, he’d have to have an [annual average value] over $9 million. A lot of people think that may not happen.”

Now, we wait. The countdown is on, Senators fans.

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