Ottawa Senators and Matt Duchene at Tipping Point

The Ottawa Senators are running out of time to tie up Matt Duchene on a new contract. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that some pretty high numbers are being thrown about:

If we take the lower number, you’re looking at an 8 by 8 deal which feels excessive, especially for a player who did his best work for the Avalanche by leaving the team. Still, Duchene is 28, has a good few years left in his career and wants to get paid.

It could be that Duchene loves Ottawa, but also loves bathing in crisp $100 dollar bills, so wants to get as much as he can. It could also be that he’s demanding terms that the Sens simply won’t meet and will therefor trade him elsewhere (maybe to a team capable of winning a Cup).

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Assuming that the team wants to keep Duchene, is he worth an 8 by 8 deal? This year Duchene has played very well, by Ottawa standards, so let’s compare his performance to his NHL peers (and their contracts). At the time of writing Duchene is averaging 1.12 points per game. This puts him in the same room as Steven Stamkos ($8.5 mil, 8 year), Elias Lindholm ($4.8 mil, 6 year), Jack Eichel ($10 mil, 8 year), Elias Pettersson, Taylor Hall ($6 mil, 7 year), Brad Marchand ($6.1 mil, 8 year), Alex Ovechkin ($9.5 mil, 13 year), Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 mil, 8 year) & Phil Kessel ($8 mil, 8 year).

We can forget about Pettersson’s contract as there’s no way Duchene will take ELC money, but other contracts for players bringing the same point production as Duchene are comparable to the length and value of what Dreger talks about. Unfortunately for Duchene, many of those players have their names on the Stanley Cup, or are at least the cornerstone of their franchise. As I see it, the Sens have a few options:

Go Long

Duchene wants a contract that will effectively see him end his career in Ottawa. This is a bad idea for two reasons. Firstly, Duchene isn’t a proven winner like most of the names above. Secondly, the Sens likely can’t afford a wage bill that high. The team might be comfortably within the salary cap, but this isn’t down to savvy negotiating, it’s because the team doesn’t have the money to make it rain big contracts. If Mark Stone goes, then the Sens will likely want to hang onto Duchene.

The Ottawa forward has given some cryptic hints about his future with the above assault on the English language. If the Sens decided that Duchene was the future of the franchise, how much should they pony up? The advantage that Ottawa has is that no other GM in their right mind is gonna pay $8 mil on an 8 year contract (he says…) so if the team is going to offer big money, it’ll likely be on a shorter contract. If Duchene wants to finish his career in the nation’s capital, then a deal in the $6.5 mil with bonuses ballpark is more likely.

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This season and next will see some big names become UFA and RFA, so the Sens will need to prioritize how they’re going to distribute what salary it can.

Go Short

The Sens won’t want to be tied into a long contract, but Duchene wants job security. A shorter contract gives the team flexibility, but is also likely to be rejected allowing the Sens to…

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Trade For Picks

For a team that’s rebuilding and isn’t going to win anything any time soon, devoting a large chunk of salary to one player isn’t a smart move. Duchene will fetch some picks if traded, and for a team looking for a rental, might be a smart move. Unfortunately for Duchene, while this might see him move to an actual cup contender, it’ll be a short term move as I can’t see any other team willing to consider a heavy, long term contract come the end of the season

What do you think the Senators should do with Duchene? Vote on the twitter poll below!

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