While many minor trades have occurred over the past couple of weeks leading up to the February 25th trade deadline, the market is being held up by the Ottawa Senators and their pending unrestricted free agents. A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that the Senators were setting soft deadlines for their stars Mark Stone and Matt Duchene to inform the team of their intentions to re-sign. But the first soft deadline came and went, and no news was had. The Senators extended the deadline to this weekend for the stars to make a decision.
Talks with Duchene seemed to be making the most headway, getting so far as an extension offer of a reported 8 million over 8 years. But this has since changed, as the Senators have apparently made the point-per-game centre available for trade. Teams interested are vast in numbers, but the main pursuers seem to be the Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets. With Stone, it was quite the reverse. With little news and little reported headway on a contract, speculation about potential suitors for the take-away master grew in numbers very quickly, spearheaded by his home-province team, the Winnipeg Jets. The Senators have since re-engaged in contract talks with Stone, and have not made him explicitly available.
With the big fish market quiet, all eyes will be on the Senators to see how they handle their unrestricted standouts. There should be a glut of teams lining up to make offers, so not only expect a potential trade partner to come out of nowhere, but expect a large package as well. For teams that miss out on Stone or Duchene, expect them to take a good look at cheaper pending UFA Ryan Dzingel, also a Senator, who’s market will become more clear when his big-name teammates are moved out or removed from trade conversations.