With a team in a critical state, it would benefit the Ottawa Senators if they could re-sign one or both of their top free agents this summer. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that Mark Stone said that he expects contract negotiations to start in the next two weeks and makes it clear that he wants to stay in Ottawa.
Today marks the first day that Stone can sign an extension with the Senators. The 26-year-old went to arbitration with Ottawa this summer, eventually winning a one-year, $7.35MM deal as the two parties failed to agree to a long-term deal. Now the Senators must deal with Stone, who will hit unrestricted free agency this summer. The fact that both sides seem agreeable to working out a deal could be considered a good sign. However, that doesn’t mean that Stone is guaranteed to return. If the team fails to agree to an extension with Stone before the trade deadline in February, don’t be surprised if the Senators trade the talented forward rather than let him walk away for nothing.
Stone has been impressive on the ice this season and has been a leader both on and off the ice for a young Senators’ squad. TSN reports that Stone led a team meeting today, to discuss with the players the team’s recent struggles. He already has 18 goals and 43 points through 40 games and could be heading for a career year if he can keep those number up as his previous career high was back in the 2014-15 season when he tallied 26 goals and 64 points. A big season will only increase Stone’s asking price, but Ottawa really needs to make sure they can either keep Stone or Matt Duchene, who has also said that he’d like to stay in Ottawa, but many feel he may opt to leave Ottawa. Another concern is the team’s lack of willingness to offer big contracts out due to the team’s financial situation.