The Ottawa Senators are getting ready to "intensify" contracts talks with pending UFA forwards Mark Stone and Matt Duchene, according to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion is believed to be heading to Los Angeles, where he'll talk with Duchene's agent in Pat Brisson, per Garrioch. Stone and Duchene rank first and second in team scoring with 48 and 42 points, respectively.
As Garrioch points out, the Senators will have to reach extensions with the two players before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Otherwise, the Senators will need to move their top two forwards out for younger assets, rather than risk losing both for nothing in free agency this offseason.
The 26-year-old Stone has already hit the 20-goal mark for the fifth straight year, and he's poised to surpass the career-best 64 points posted during the 2014-15 season. Stone is one of the league's top two-way players, and he's expressed his desire to stay in Ottawa. The Senators have every incentive to try to keep Stone, who signed a one-year, $7.35 million extension last offseason.
Duchene was acquired by the Senators in a three-team blockbuster trade involving the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche. Ottawa had to sacrifice their 2019 first-round pick, which could very well wind up being the top selection. That alone gives them a reason to keep Duchene, rather than lose out on their high first-rounder without getting anything good in the long term.
Like Stone, Duchene has expressed his happiness in Ottawa and wants to stay. But the Senators are an extremely budget-conscious franchise, and if they opt to re-sign Stone first, it could be difficult to reach an extension with Duchene.
The Senators enter play on Wednesday with the worst record in the Atlantic Division, sitting at 17-24-5. They're in the running to finish with the league's worst record, which would give Colorado the best odds at winning the Jack Hughes sweepstakes. Keeping Duchene and Stone for the season wold obviously help the Sens' chances of not finishing last in the league.
What This Means
The Senators will need to do everything they can to retain these two stars. Duchene and Stone are key components of this roster and could help the organization accelerate its rebuild.