The match-up between the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils tonight could have somewhat of a preseason feel. When two of the NHL’s three worst teams face off, they will do so without many of their top players. Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, and Ryan Dzingel will not dress for Ottawa and neither will Marcus Johansson and Ben Lovejoy for New Jersey.
Both teams have confirmed that the scratches are “precautionary”, but seeing as all five are impending unrestricted free agents rumored to be on the trade block with the NHL Trade Deadline just four days away, it is easy to read between the lines. While the likes of Duchene and Johansson have been confirmed as on the market and likely to be traded, speculation is set to soar about Stone and Dzingel, as well as Lovejoy. Case in point: TSN’s Frank Seravalli has moved Stone up to No. 1 on the TSN Trade Bait List following this news, stating that “sitting out signals his apparent decision to forego a contract extension with the Senators in favour of testing the open market.” Stone and Duchene are now occupying the top two spots on the list, with Dzingel at No. 9. For New Jersey, Johansson comes in at No. 14 and Lovejoy at No. 41. Tonight’s lineup decisions indicate all five could be headed elsewhere in the coming days.
Fans in attendance tonight will likely be disappointed by the lack of star power, but not as much as the scouts in attendance. TSN’s Gord Miller notes that the many scouts still evaluating Ottawa’s big three – who make up 41% of their scoring this season – will likely be frustrated by the absence of not just Duchene, who sat out last game, but also Stone and Dzingel. This includes the Winnipeg Jets, who have been frequently linked to the Senators’ stars. NJ.com’s Chris Ryan reports that the Jets have three scouts in attendance, yet no Ottawa stars to observe. Ryan states that ten teams have scouts in attendance and some were likely there to see Johansson and/or Lovejoy as well, but instead will only see sellers protecting their assets.