Season of the Sentury: Matt Duchene
Keeping track of news and notes on the Sens’ top centreman in his contract year.
When the Ottawa Senators traded for Matt Duchene back in November, the team was still riding on a high note. Now heading into a contract year, with the Sens falling down what seems to be a bottomless pit, the future of Ottawa’s first line centre remains in question.
That is why today we’re rolling out our new three-part ‘series’, titled Season of the Sentury.
The 2018-19 NHL season opens in less than a month, and for the Ottawa Senators, this could be the most pivotal time in franchise history. The organization’s three best players of Duchene, Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone are all entering a contract year, and with unrest in the front office, the trio head into the season with the possibility of it being their last in Ottawa.
The purpose of these articles is to provide you with coverage on any new developments, whether it be news or rumours, in a single place. With information on the subject usually coming out in small pieces, this platform will be used by the Silver Seven staff to give you quick hits on any news as it comes out. Not everything is worth writing a full article about, so we hope this will be your go-to place for the latest updates.
No need to worry about bookmarking this page either, as it will be moved to the top of the home page after each update, with each one also being time-stamped.
This specific area will be dedicated to Matt Duchene — we also have Season of the Sentury posts for Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson.
February 19th — Sitting Out
It appears Matt Duchene has already played his last game as an Ottawa Senator. With reports surfacing earlier this week that the Sens are actively shopping him, we now know that Duchene has been told he won’t be playing in Ottawa’s next few games.
This is likely a move of precaution, nullifying any chance he gets injured mid-game, which would dampen his trade value. Some teams were already upset at Ottawa for keeping Duchene and Stone in the lineup agaisnst Chicago, with some GMs’ hearts skipping a beat when Stone slid into the boards (he was okay).
Additionally, David Pagnotta reported that Duchene would be open to signing an extension with whichever team he’s traded to. This re-opens the possibility of him signing for the maximum eight years, where he’d be limited to seven years after July 1st.
February 17th — The Time is Nigh(?)
It’s beginning to sound as if Matt Duchene’s time as an Ottawa Senator is coming to an end. Following yet another great performance against the Winnipeg Jets, Elliotte Friedman has reported that the Senators are now actively shopping Duchene.
OTT and Mark Stone have re-engaged in discussions over the past few days to see if there is common ground on an extension. Meanwhile, the Senators have made Matt Duchene available, and expect those talks to heat up over the next few days.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 17, 2019
As the day goes on, the reports are bring echoed by more and more members of the media. Bruce Garrioch reports that the Sens have been shopping Duchene since last week, and TSN’s Darren Dreger says Duchene is as good as gone barring any last-minute change.
Parties rumoured to be interested include the Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, and New York Islanders, but the list is likely substantially larger.
With all this in mind, it seems that any sliver of hope for Matt Duchene to stay in Ottawa is now gone. These guys usually don’t pipe up with this kind of certainty unless they know something is brewing, and it would make sense that Ottawa would try to get this deal done ASAP to avoid an injury.
Stay tuned to Silver Seven for more, we’ll keep you posted.
February 10th — Decision Time
In yesterday’s Headlines segment, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston provided some new information on all three pending UFAs. It appears the Sens have a loose deadline for when they’re expected to make decisions on Duchene, Stone and Dzingel, which is coming up very soon. This is what Friedman had to say:
“Ottawa is letting teams know that if any of their players are going to be available, including the key three ones — Duchene, Dzingel and Stone — teams will know about ten days out before the deadline hits. So that looks like it’s the middle of next week when Ottawa will begin to let other teams know — are any of their UFAs going to be on the market? Or are they going to be staying Senators?”
The trade deadline is February 25th, so ten days before will be February 15th... this Friday. Hold onto your seats Sens fans... this could be a very stressful two weeks.
Speaking of stress, ten days seems like an awfully short amount of time to try and maximize the return of as many as three amazing forwards. Considering Dorion has zero help (AGM Peter MacTavish focuses solely on contracts), the Sens are just pressing themselves further into a corner.
Johnston also added some more key information about Duchene, and how the Sens are approaching his negotiations:
“I think the big one that has to make a decision here is Matt Duchene, because there have been extensive talks this week with his agent Pat Brisson and Senators manager Pierre Dorion. A lot of those discussions actually have been about the future of the franchise — what they’re expecting in terms of their window to get back to respectability, things going on with the arena. And what it really comes down to now is what Matt Duchene wants. He hasn’t been given a firm deadline from the Senators on when he has to make his choice, but with the sides set to talk again on Monday, he knows this is coming to a head.”
This falls closely in line with Melnyk’s pitch this past week to his investors, the fans and the players. Whether or not it’s enough for the Big Three to decide whether or not they want to stay is up to them.
It’s also interesting that we’re seeing significantly more information leaking about Duchene than for Stone or Dzingel. Maybe the latter two have very tight-lipped agents, maybe Duchene is the Sens’ #1 priority, or maybe Stone and Dzingel have already made decisions to leave. Most likely it’s a combination of all three.
Johnston also had this to add:
“And I should mention that [Duchene] does love it in Ottawa. Even if he weren’t to sign now, and was traded at the deadline, I don’t think he’d rule out a potential return on July 1st as a free agent.”
While I love the possibility, and this has happened a few times with Tomas Plekanec and Antoine Vermette, Duchene is different in that it would limit his potential earnings. The Sens can currently offer him an eight-year deal — which is what he’s reportedly seeking — although the max term would drop to seven years should he become a UFA July 1st. If he’s keen on staying, his extension will be signed before then.
Nick Kypros also mentioned Nashville and Winnipeg as potential suitors for the Sens’ star forwards. Eeli Tolvanen and Sami Niku were names thrown out there, although it wouldn’t surprise me if Kristian Vesalainen and Dante Fabbro would also be brought up in discussions.
January 31st — Trade Deadline Countdown
Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun jumped onto the Leafs Lunch podcast earlier today, and had quite a few things to say about the Ottawa Senators. That included a key quote about Matt Duchene, where Dreger stated that “if Eugene Melnyk doesn’t come off eight million dollars, Matt Duchene is not staying in Ottawa.” LeBrun also added that this is Duchene’s only chance at becoming an unrestricted free agent, while lifting up the possibility of an immediate extension following a trade, similar to what happened last season with Kyle Turris.
Matt Duchene also spoke to the media today following the team’s practice in Pittsburgh, and opened up on what his thought process is during this crucial negotiation process.
“My agent and I have been talking, and nothing’s really changed from the start. Like I’ve said all along, it’s going to be a hockey decision at the end of the day. I see certain things on TV or in the media and I laugh because I have no idea where they’re coming from.”
“Obviously there’s a decision coming up that is going to impact my life in the next little while. My wife and I have been talking about it with my agent. But at the end of the day we’ve really enjoyed our time in Ottawa. I’m not sure how this is going to play out, but time will tell, I guess.”
“If I don’t have an answer for them, I expect that they’d make a move. That’s the way it is, you can’t really afford to let guys go for nothing anymore in this league. At the end of the day I need to be sure of what I’m doing. It’s a process right now that I’m evaluating, and it’s not an easy one because it’s the first time I’ve ever been in this situation. It’s really hard to make mid-season. So I’m taking my time, as much time as I have here, and we’ll see what happens, but we’re not at that point yet.”
“I’m still trying to educate myself on what’s here now and what’s coming, and it’s hard because you go from a team that when I got here was a favourite to challenge for a Cup and probably a top six/seven team in the league, to where we’re at right now. I’ve been in this situation before with teams where we start from the bottom. It’s really tough because you need to crystal ball to see how things pan out.”
While none of this is particularly new information, it’s interesting to see the difference in dialogue coming from Duchene, the organization, and the insiders. Melnyk’s financial stubbornness is well established at this point, as is Duchene’s love for the city. Although with the trade deadline less than a month away, both the player and team will soon need to choose a concrete direction.
January 20th — First Contract Offer
During yesterday’s segment on Hockey Night in Canada, Nick Kypreos reported that the Sens have made their first contract offer to Matt Duchene’s camp, worth $64 million over eight years, with an annual cap hit of $8 million. This is the first offer we’ve heard coming from the Sens, although as Darren Dreger later clarified, the numbers are still not very definitive, falling more in the $65-$75 million range, still on an eight year deal.
What hasn’t been discussed yet is how signing bonuses will be incorporated, and given the troubled state of the Sens’ financial backing, it may not be feasible to include any bonus money whatsoever. This would wipe away almost any advantage they previously had over the open market (they can still offer Duchene an eight-year deal instead seven), although that doesn’t mean it’s out of the realm of possibility. For example, Ryan Johansen’s eight-year $64 million contract with Nashville included zero signing bonus money, an area where the Predators have been notoriously strict in their negotiations. Johansen is an exception, however, with the only other potentially comparable deal since 2016 belonging to Blake Wheeler, who took just under 10% in performance bonuses on his recent extension.
Dorion is expected to meet again with Duchene’s agent soon. And with the trade deadline quickly approaching, the Sens will need to make some quick decisions on whether Duchene will be a part of the franchise’s future.
January 16th — Dorion Meets with Duchene’s Agent
Per Bruce Garrioch, Pierre Dorion wrapped up his team’s scouting meetings in Florida and almost immediately flew to Los Angeles to meet in person with Duchene’s agent, Pat Brisson. Duchene’s response has been non-committal, saying it’s early in the process (even though discussions could’ve started July 1st) and he has no clue what’s going to happen. About four days ago, TSN’s Frank Seravalli commented that it’s believed no terms have been discussed yet between Dorion and Brisson, which begs the question what they were talking about back in November when “contract talks were progressing” according to Dorion.
Brian Burke told the Sportsnet panel about a week ago that as a GM, you want two weeks’ notice from a pending UFA if they’re going to re-sign or if you have to start negotiating a trade. With the trade deadline February 25th, that gives the Sens 26 days to extend Duchene or start working out a trade. This doesn’t mean Duchene will get traded, but for what it’s worth, he’s moved to no. 1 on TSN’s trade bait board. You may remember last year when Erik Karlsson joined the board, and though he didn’t get traded in February, he was eventually traded. The Sens don’t have the luxury of waiting until the summer to make a decision this time as bottom-five team with several pending UFAs.
January 5th — Getting Frigid
Surprise surprise. As reported by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston on a recent Hockey Night in Canada segment, it appears that contract discussions between the Senators and Matt Duchene have cooled down. Dorion met with Duchene’s agent earlier this season, although his focus has reportedly shifted to exploring trade options. The NHL trade deadline is quickly approaching on February 26th, and with a few other players that can possibly be used as trade chips, Dorion certainly has his work cut out for him.
Given the team’s barren financial state, having lost $10M this season alone in ticket revenue, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. They won’t be able to compete financially if he decides to dash via free agency, so they may as well try to recoup some assets instead. And with the way the team is performing in the standings, what more excuse does a player need to want to leave? It’s an unfortunate situation, for a player that was acquired at a very high cost.
November 20th — Contract Talks Progressing
The question of whether Matt Duchene will stick around or opt to test free agency has been looming on everyone’s minds since the summer. While it was reported in October that talks have begun with the Duchene camp on an extension, it has been quiet since. This morning however, Pierre LeBrun tweeted out that Matt Duchene’s agent has met twice with Pierre Dorion face to face to discuss an extension with most recent meeting taking place last Monday in Toronto. In response, Bob Mackenzie confirmed that talks are progressing with still a lot of ground to be covered. The general consensus is it would be an 8 year deal with an AAV of between $8-9M.
It’s premature to say this deal will get done, there’s still work to be done, but it sure sounds like talks are progressing. There seems to be earnest desire on both sides to reach agreement. My best guess would be term of 8 years and AAV somewhere north of $8M but south of $9M. https://t.co/mflC2oxFnx— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) November 20, 2018
While it’s not safe to get excited just yet, it certainly is nice to hear some positive news about the situation. It should be noted that Matt Duchene is currently leading the team with 10 goals and 27 points which is also good enough for 5th overall in league scoring - one point behind Connor McDavid and Mitch Marner. I would say he’s earning his negotiating rights in this extension. Let’s hope this ends well for both sides, it’s been exciting to see the chemistry of our top-6 and the future would most certainly look brighter with Duchene locked up long term.
October 29th — Breaking Bread
It appears that the Sens have begun to negotiate a contract extension for Matt Duchene, with the full intention of keeping him in the organization. Bob McKenzie first reported on early negotiations on October 16th, with Duchene’s agent Pat Brisson meeting with Pierre Dorion in Toronto. Unlike Mark Stone who can’t sign until January 1st, the signing period is open for Duchene until he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.
Dorion also gave a quote today on the subject, stating that it is his full intention is to re-sign the Sens’ #1 centre to a long-term deal.
“We’re just going to let things stand still (publicly),” Dorion said of negotiations.
“Hopefully, our next discussion on Matt Duchene is when we can hopefully announce a contract.”
This sparks a bunch of questions. Should we trust Pierre Dorion? Given how he continually said the same for Erik Karlsson, despite Karlsson later revealing that he knew he would be traded all along, I’d venture to say no. The decision will ultimately come down to Duchene, however, and whether he thinks it’s worth staying in the nation’s capital.
Additionally, with the Sens announcing with flying colours that the team is in a rebuild, how does this fit into their supposed plan? If the goal is to focus on acquiring draft picks and younger talent, as a rebuild would traditionally suggest, Duchene could be the ideal piece to dangle for a large package around the trade deadline.
Digging even further, would Eugene Melnyk even approve a massive extension if it comes down to Duchene making seven-plus million per year? While this quote could very well be a placeholder for the media (what else is he going to say?), it somehow leaves us with even more questions.
September 12th — Wait and See
Duchene was in Chicago this past week for some pre-season media rounds, where TSN reporter Frank Seravelli gave us this:
Matt Duchene says no contract talks yet with #Sens: “There’s been some big things going on that obviously take precedent over that.” He’s open to re-signing, but watched Tavares: “It’s the 1st time you have that ultimate power as a player and you have to do what’s best for you.”— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) September 7, 2018
Although it sounds concerning put this way, a later article posted on NHL.com gives some more context and insight into Duchene’s mindset.
On Mark Stone’s one-year deal...
“Those are the things I want to sit back and watch. The nice thing is is I’m kind of the last domino in that sense. Those are things I want to see.
”Erik, that’s a little bit different situation, but with [Mark], that’s a guy I’d love to move forward with as a teammate. Him doing a one-year deal, it’s a little bit different and makes you think a little bit, but I want to see what he’s saying and we’ll talk through it. Having talked about it, we both really like it in Ottawa and we both want it to work, so that’s the biggest thing.”
He also put big emphasis on the need to have a bounce-back season, as you’d expect from someone who’s spent nearly ten years without his first playoff series victory. While most outlets peg Ottawa as a surefire basement dweller, Duchene seems a bit more optimistic.
“I want an opportunity to win. At this point, when you’re in this situation, and I talked to [Toronto Maple Leafs center] John Tavares about it a lot last year, it’s hard to pick a team to go to to win the Stanley Cup because the League is so good now. But you want to be competitive. You want to be on a team that is either right there for the playoffs or in the playoffs every year.
“We have a lot of really good people in that locker room, and sometimes I think we can be a little bit more outward and aggressive, and I think that will carry onto the ice. That’s the message this year. … Let’s prove everybody wrong and let’s show people who we are and what we are.”
Take this as you will, although as both Karlsson and Stone have similarly stated, they love it in Ottawa and want to win here. Obvious problems are getting in the way of that, however, which is essentially why we’re in this situation to begin with.
September 12th — How Did We Get Here?
Duchene was traded to the Sens in early November 2017, right before the Sens began their tumble into the league’s basement. This marked the end of a long saga in Colorado where Duchene had requested a trade in hopes of being able to play in the playoffs (he only has eight games of experience in his nine NHL seasons).
Although the Sens traded for Duchene as an upgrade at centre while simultaneously dealing away Kyle Turris, it also gave them a bit more time to work things out. Turris was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this past off-season, although settled on a six-year, $36M extension with Nashville. Duchene, meanwhile, is nearing the end of a five-year, $30M contract he signed back in 2013, scheduled to expire on July 1st, 2019.
The trade has since blown up in Pierre Dorion’s face, as Colorado possesses Ottawa’s 1st round pick in 2019. Losing Duchene for nothing would reflect poorly on Dorion and the organization as a whole, leaving the GM having his work cut out for him.
Although Duchene didn’t find the playoff team he was hoping for, he’s expressed that he loves Ottawa as a city. He’s also much closer to his hometown of Haliburton. However, due to financial insecurity from owner Eugene Melnyk, and a losing culture that the team has fallen into, we’re left with a lack of commitment from either side heading into a contract year, along with the team’s two other stars.