Matt Duchene wants to see how the Ottawa Senators progress with defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Mark Stone, and how Ottawa responds to last season, before deciding on his long-term future.
The 27-year-old center is entering the final season of a five-year contract he signed with the Colorado Avalanche in 2013. He is eligible to sign a contract extension, but, like Karlsson and Stone, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2019.
“The picture will become clearer for me as it goes,” Duchene said during the NHL Player Media Tour on Friday.
Karlsson, Ottawa’s captain, is entering the final season of a seven-year contract he signed June 19, 2012, and has long been rumored to be traded and could be moved before the season begins.
Stone signed a one-year, $7.35 million contract Aug. 3. He had 62 points, including an NHL career-high 42 assists, in 58 games last season.
“Those are the things I want to sit back and watch,” Duchene said. “The nice thing is is I’m kind of the last domino in that sense. Those are things I want to see.
“Erik, that’s a little bit different situation, but with [Mark], that’s a guy I’d love to move forward with as a teammate. Him doing a one-year deal, it’s a little bit different and makes you think a little bit, but I want to see what he’s saying and we’ll talk through it. Having talked about it, we both really like it in Ottawa and we both want it to work, so that’s the biggest thing.”
Duchene said he also wants to see how the Senators rebound from last season.
“That’s a huge puzzle piece,” he said.
Ottawa finished 30th in the NHL last season, 30 points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Duchene had 49 points (23 goals, 26 assists) in 68 games with the Senators after they acquired him in a trade from the Avalanche on Nov. 5.
“I want an opportunity to win,” Duchene said. “At this point, when you’re in this situation, and I talked to [Toronto Maple Leafs center] John Tavares about it a lot last year, it’s hard to pick a team to go to to win the Stanley Cup because the League is so good now. But you want to be competitive. You want to be on a team that is either right there for the playoffs or in the playoffs every year.
“I mean, look at [the] Washington [Capitals]. They lost however many years in a row in the second round, but they were there every year and then they break through and they win the [Stanley] Cup. So that’s the goal. That’s going to be the biggest thing for me is just to see how things shape out early on.”
Duchene is optimistic the Senators will rebound. He cited the development of young players including 24-year-old defenseman Cody Ceci, who was awarded a one-year, $4.3 million contract in arbitration Aug. 3, and 21-year-old defenseman Thomas Chabot, who had 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 63 games last season.
“We have a lot of really good people in that locker room, and sometimes I think we can be a little bit more outward and aggressive, and I think that will carry onto the ice,” Duchene said. “That’s the message this year. … Let’s prove everybody wrong and let’s show people who we are and what we are.”