Senators: Duchene Drama Complicates Things as Ottawa Looks to Stabilize

Because drama seems to be the order of the day when we’re talking about the Ottawa Senators, it’s time to take a look at the Matt Duchene situation.

If we’re being honest, we’ll admit that Duchene’s arrival in the nation’s capital didn’t exactly bring about smooth sailing for the Senators. It was a big deal for Pierre Dorion and he pulled off a three-team swap to get it done 13 months ago.

Since then, the Sens have been stripped down to basic and bare parts.

And now, Duchene is producing well with 34 points but the upcoming contract situation is rather complicated.

Duchene is currently on the shelf after he went down with a groin injury suffered Thursday, which leaves the Senators without one of their biggest offensive threats. Bobby Ryan is also out with a concussion and there is no timetable for his return.

“Anytime when you lose guys of that caliber, it’s definitely going to hurt,” goalie Craig Anderson said. “But again, you can’t look at it as ‘Woe is me.’ You’ve got to look at it as an opportunity for another guy to step in, fill that role, maybe pick up some of those points that those guys are leaving on the table.”

The broader issue is that Duchene is in the last year of his current five-year contract, which pays out $6 million a year and was signed in July of 2013 when he was a member of the Avalanche. Prior to that, he signed a two-year deal with Colorado that paid out $3.5 million a season.

The next contract will be a make-or-break situation, it seems, and it will determine the future of this franchise to a large extent. The Senators are a team that seems, at times, on the ropes in terms of the city, planning, ownership, and even the on-ice product. Everything is against them at this point, nearly, and yet they’ve managed to pile up some wins.

The sense is that Duchene wants to play for a winner, but Ottawa may be too boisterous for him to achieve that right now. At nearly 28-years-old, he’s got to approach his next contract with some irrevocability in mind. And Mark Stone, Ottawa’s other big pending UFA, will hold a certain degree of influence over how things play out.

With Duchene on the shelf, the focus will shift to money matters. The Senators have been talking with their player and they are said to be looking for a signal of intent by the start of the new year – and not just to some Uber driver.

That’s just around the corner, which means that the next few weeks are make or break as far as the relationship goes between Duchene and his hockey club.

If they can’t get anything done, they’ll deal him at or before the trade deadline. And given that the Senators are sitting without a first-round pick in the upcoming draft, you have to imagine the pot for Duchene could be pretty enticing – especially if he’s not down with Ottawa for the long haul.

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