Two weeks ago it was reported that contract negotiations between Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and pending unrestricted free agent Matt Duchene have “gone sour” over the owner’s unwillingness to relent on salary.
Melnyk, of course, is notorious for being one of the stingiest owners in the NHL and it’s widely believed that his unwillingness to open up his wallet was one of the biggest reasons that the team traded captain Erik Karlsson this past offseason. Could history be repeating itself?
Last week a report from NHL insider Bob McKenzie has Sens fans REALLY worried. McKenzie, the most trusted source in the entire NHL, believes that both Duchene AND fellow pending UFA Mark Stone will BOTH be traded.
“My needle on Stone and Duchene is that they’re not going to sign in Ottawa and they’re going to be traded,” said McKenzie on his latest episode of the TSN Bobcast. “Now, I guess they could. And I’m sure Ottawa will continue here in the next number of days to try and take a run at that, but I don’t know.“
“I think by the time Monday rolls around - two weeks out from the trade deadline - we’re going to have some clarity on the guys in Ottawa.”
Now, earlier today McKenzie’s TSN colleague Darren Dreger came out with a new report stating that “all three” of the Sens’ big pending UFAs (Duchene, Stone and Ryan Dzingel) will walk away from the team and head to free agency.
Check out these quotes from Dreger from Edmonton’s TSN 1260 radio station:
“I think Ottawa would love to have the ability to sign all three of those guys - Stone, Duchene, and Dzingel. It’s unlikely. I don’t see any way that they get all three signed, and I think that it’s a bit of a longshot that they two of the three. Some who I trust think that all three might be walking. We’re going to find out sooner than later.”
“It feels like something may go down this week. And that might be something as little - although it’s significant - as one or both of the big boys in Stone and Duchene just coming clean and saying, ‘Look, we’re not signing here. We’re going to go to the market or at least we’re open to be traded. We understand the Ottawa Senators can’t let us walk into unrestricted free agency, but we’re just not signing here.’
“Now, whether that happens with both of those guys this week, one of those guys this week, we’re going to have to wait and see. But when you’re this close to the February 25 trade deadline and you’re trying to maximize the return for two star players, then I feel like Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators are going to need as much time as possible to try and manufacture the greatest return.”
Stone is on a one-year, $7.35 million contract and could command as much as $10 million per season on a long term deal this offseason. Duchene is finishing up a five-year, $30 million deal and will likely be seeking something north of $10 million per season, as well. Dzingel, who is having a career season with 21 goals and 41 points in 53 games is in line for a sizeable gas, as well.