Much has been made of the dwindling core of the Ottawa Senators. Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman are gone, Craig Anderson is nearing retirement, and the teams top three forwards are impending unrestricted free agents – that would be Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel. Given the current state and direction of the team, it has been estimated by many that all three could opt for the open market next summer. Stone took a direct approach to those rumors this week, stating that he loves Ottawa and wants to remain with the Senators.
As TSN’s Frank Servalli writes, Duchene is not so eager to decide one way or the other on his future. Earlier this off-season, Duchene said that an extension is something that he would definitely consider, but wanted to see how things go this year. Since then, it has gone from bad to worse in Ottawa with the departure of key players, as well as ownership and the front office committing to a rebuild. It seems very unlikely that the season will go well for the Senators, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will sour Duchene on sticking around. Duchene called last year a “disaster”, both personally and for the Senators and is looking for a fresh take this season. In his first full season with the team, Duchene’s individual performance and his fit in the locker room and in Ottawa’s long-term plan is instead what will likely dictate his next move. Duchene appreciates being close to home in Ottawa and could cherish a role as a leader with the Senators. Then again, polarizing owner Eugene Melnyk has been apprehensive about awarding expensive contracts and Duchene could decide after a strong season that he has a much better chance at getting market value and finding a winning situation with another team.
Sens fans would love to hear that Duchene is committed to the team, and sooner rather than later. After all, Ottawa gave up quite the package to acquire him from the Colorado Avalanche early last season, including what could turn out to be the top overall pick in next year’s entry draft. However, given their recent rash of bad luck, those same fans would rather Duchene be patient with his decision than be yet another player hoping to be dealt away. Unlike Stone, who – after going through the arbitration process – may not re-sign until after January 1st, Duchene is eligible to ink an extension already. Just don’t expect a decision any time soon, though.