In his latest “31 Thoughts” article, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman poses the question on the mind of many fans and general managers alike: how long will the Ottawa Senators wait to make a decision on the futures of their impending free agent stars? The team made it a point to say early in the season that they had talked about a new contract with Matt Duchene and just recently it was reported that Mark Stone is prepared to talk to the team as well, now that he is eligible for an extension in the new year. Friedman adds that the Ottawa has already approached Ryan Dzingel about a new deal as well. The Senators clearly have plans to discuss contract extensions with the trio, but with the NHL Trade Deadline less than two months away, at what point will they begin talking to other teams instead? On one hand, the Senators owe the bulk of their meager offense to these three impending free agents and seemingly must do their best to bring back as many as they can. Stone leads the team with 45 points, while Duchene has missed six games but nevertheless is second with 40 points, and Dzingel is fourth – third among forwards – with 29 points. The idea that the team could lose all three and somehow improve next season seems like a long shot to say the least. The team has to do their best to resign the group. Yet, if the trio were to depart, it would be much nicer if they did so with a parting gift. Even if GM Pierre Dorion holds on to each player through the deadline in hopes of resigning them, there is no guarantee that they will stay in Ottawa. Rather than lose them for nothing, the Senators would benefit far more from trading them for hefty returns this season. Odds are that the team negotiates with each one of Stone, Duchene, and Dzingel right up until deadline before making a move, but if the market is stronger beforehand, Dorion and company will have some difficult decisions to make.
- The Carolina Hurricanes are in a similar position with off-season acquisition Micheal Ferland. Ferland, an overlooked part of the Dougie Hamilton trade between the ’Canes and Calgary Flames, has enjoyed a breakout season in Carolina. Ferland is fourth on the team in scoring with 19 points and is currently on pace to set a new career high in scoring despite missing seven games due to injury. Friedman’s opinion on this situation is somewhat more definitive than Ottawa’s. Friedman claims that the two teams are talking extension, but if one is not in place by the trade deadline, Ferland will certainly be moved. The two-way left wing would be a highly valued asset on the rental market and Carolina would not hesitate to get what they can in a trade. Ferland, who has found a fit with Carolina, may not even rule out returning to the team in free agency, even if they can’t come to terms on a new contract this year. The only question remaining is how soon the Hurricanes would be willing to move Ferland if a deal is not coming together.
- One surprise player who Friedman notes could be available is Vancouver Canucks forward Nikolay Goldobin. Friedman states that the team is merely looking into the potential return for the young winger right now, but even testing the market on Goldobin is unexpected. The 23-year-old winger is fourth on the team in scoring with 23 points in 41 games and at times has looked like a key piece of the young core for the Canucks. Yet, he has also moved around the lineup frequently and has even been a healthy scratch. It could be that Vancouver is fearful of upcoming negotiations with the impending restricted free agent, as GM Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green are not yet sold that he is worthy of a long-term contract, nor does the team want to be saddled with an arbitration decision. Regardless, a young player with the offensive upside of Goldobin is a rare entry into the trade market (although he has already been traded once in his career) and if the Canucks truly make him available, they will surely find takers.