The word out of Ottawa in recent years was that owner Eugene Melnyk was hesitant to pay the market price for top talent and did not want his team approaching the salary cap ceiling. Unfortunately, if the Senators have any chance of improving next season after back-to-back bottom-dwelling campaigns, they need to re-sign Mark Stone and Matt Duchene and doing so will certainly not be cheap. While serious extension talks with the former began weeks ago, there is now a promising update on the latter as well. Several sources report that Senators GM Pierre Dorion recently met with Duchene’s agent, Pat Brisson, and began negotiations on an eight-year contract extension.
The first report on this topic came from Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos late last night, who stated that the initial offer is eight years and $64MM for an AAV of $8MM. While Kypreos feels this is a fair valuation for the the 28-year-old forward, it presents only a $2MM boost from Duchene’s current $6MM cap hit from a contract he signed six years ago with a substantially smaller salary cap limit in place. Duchene is also scoring at a career-high clip of 1.18 points per game and, if he stays healthy, is on pace for 85 points in 73 games this season, also a career best. That could be enough to make Duchene the top-scoring forward on the free agent market or at least among the top three with Stone and Artemi Panarin. Regardless, he will be the most highly sought-after center this summer if he does reach free agency and that knowledge will add a premium to extension talks. Thus, it comes as little surprise that TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that the “ballpark” numbers on an eight-year deal for Duchene are actually $65-75MM total, for an AAV above $8MM and ranging to nearly $9.4MM.
Regardless of the exact numbers, Senators fans will be happy to hear that the team is at least laying the ground work for an extension with Duchene, as well as Stone. With that said, with the NHL Trade Deadline coming up next month, Ottawa will need to work quickly to get the pair re-signed or otherwise need to begin shopping them for the best offer. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman expects that there will be deadlines attached to any extension offers so as to allow the team the time needed to have trade talks if contract talks aren’t going as well. The next few weeks will decide which option comes out on top, but for the sake of the Senators franchise, one would hope that at least one of Duchene or Stone re-up with the club. It is a promising step to hear that they are actually discussing reasonable figures in these initial extension talks and maybe Ottawa fans will have the stroke of good luck they so desperately need with new deals for both players.