It’s no longer a question of if the Ottawa Senators will trade star center Matt Duchene at the NHL’s Monday deadline, but rather when and to whom; leaving teams like the New York Islanders ready to pounce as they search for a top-tier scorer for the stretch run.
The Senators have decided to sit Duchene until he is dealt in order to protect their trade asset, ending any hope in Ottawa that the 28-year-old would work out an extension with the team. With a contract expiring at the end of the season for a team rooted to the bottom of the standings, Duchene will bring a big return of prospects or draft picks to a Senators team that doesn’t have their first-round selection this year. Ottawa actually traded that pick to the Colorado Avalanche for Duchene last season. Now the Avalanche can thank the Senators for the possibility of nabbing the No. 1 overall pick this summer.
Despite the possibility of Duchene testing the waters in free agency and signing for a completely different team this summer, the Senators have set a high price of a first-round pick, an NHL-ready youngster and a blue-chip prospect for potential trade suitors. Even with the steep price, they are obviously still receiving plenty of action.
Duchene is having a career season, averaging more than a point per game with 27 goals and 31 assists (58 points) in just 50 games. That kind of firepower makes him one of the league’s supreme rentals at the trade deadline alongside fellow teammate Mark Stone and Columbus Blue Jackets playmaker Artemi Panarin.
This is where the Islanders come in.
New York has shocked the NHL world this season as they lead the Metropolitan Division despite losing their franchise star in John Tavares during free agency last summer. First-year head coach Barry Trotz and president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello turned a disorganized, dysfunctional franchise into a resolute power in the East. The Islanders’ defense, behind the stellar goaltending of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, has paced a team that could make some serious noise in the postseason, but only if they can spark the offense.
Only two teams in the Eastern Conference have scored fewer goals than the Islanders this season, who also have the 24th-ranked power play in the NHL. Prior to the team’s 59th game of the season, there was not a single 20-goal scorer on the roster and only one player (Mathew Barzal) who has hit the 50-point mark.
Duchene would not only provide the Islanders with a clear leading scorer, but he would also help the organization gain some legitimate offensive depth. He’s a player that has been on the Islanders’ radar for some time dating back to last season and negotiations have reportedly begun for a possible deal.
His prospective introduction would give New York a dangerous first-line center both at even strength and on the power play. In the meantime, they could flex Brock Nelson to the second line and move him to left wing rather than rely on the younger, more inconsistent Anthony Beauvillier or Michael Dal Colle.
Either Beauvillier or Dal Colle could actually be included in a possible deal for Duchene, which would also include a first-round pick and a top prospect like an Oliver Wahlstrom or Kieffer Bellows.
That price could understandably provide hesitation for Islanders management or their fans, but Duchene offered some insight on his future plans. Per David Pagnotta of the Fourth Period, Duchene would be open to signing an extension with whichever team trades for him. In order to secure him, Lamoriello would likely have to offer Duchene an eight-year contract that ranges between $65 million and $80 million.