NHL Rumor Roundup: How long will Matt Duchene, Mark Stone stick with Senators?

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Mark Stone, Matt Duchene (Getty Images)

Can’t get enough NHL rumors? Lyle Richardson’s Rumor Roundup column serves as a one-stop guide to the latest rumblings around the league.

In the wake of the Senators trading Erik Karlsson earlier this month to the Sharks, there’s ongoing speculation over the respective futures of forwards Mark Stone and Matt Duchene. Both are due to become unrestricted free agents in July. With the Senators in the midst of a major roster rebuild, questions persist over whether the two veterans will re-sign. 

Last week, the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan cited TVA Sports’ Louis Jean, who said he’d been told the 26-year-old Stone was frustrated over the Senators’ direction and would welcome a move. The winger swiftly denied it, saying he’d never heard of Jean while questioning where the reporter got his information. 

Jean subsequently took to Twitter claiming his remarks were taken out of context, adding the Senators consider Stone a key player they want to build around. 

Duchene, meanwhile, told TSN’s Frank Seravalli he’s unconcerned over a lack of contract talks with management. While preferring to remain patient, Duchene didn’t rule out staying in Ottawa.

Senators general manager Pierre Dorion hasn’t indicated an intent to move the two forwards. He recently re-signed Stone to a one-year, $7.35 million contract.

Much will depend on the Senators’ performance this season, including the play of Stone and Duchene. A strong effort by both will put them in line for big raises next summer. 

The wild card is cantankerous Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who has a tendency to shoot from the lip and meddle in management decisions. There’s unconfirmed conjecture suggesting Melnyk pressured Dorion into trading Karlsson before the start of the season, which would explain the poor return many observers believe they got from the Sharks. 

If Stone and Duchene waffle on re-signing or seek more than Melnyk is willing to pay, they could find themselves with new teams by the Feb. 25, 2019, trade deadline. 

Is Sergei Bobrovsky on Islanders’ radar?

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky raised eyebrows around the league last week by declining to say for certain if he’d re-sign with the Blue Jackets. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. 

If the 30-year-old Bobrovsky tests the open market next summer, he won’t lack for suitors. Among them could be the Islanders.

NHL insider Darren Dreger last week told Ottawa’s TSN 1200 he thinks the Islanders could be “keenly interested” in Bobrovsky. The Isles have been in need of a reliable starting goaltender for some time and GM Lou Lamoriello has to address this issue. 

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen has no interest in trading Bobrovsky, as he’s crucial to their playoff hopes this season. However, Dreger noted a lot can happen between now and the trade deadline. 

If the Jackets are out of postseason contention by February, perhaps Bobrovsky becomes a trade chip if he remains reluctant to re-sign. Teams seeking a proven starter, including the Islanders, will likely want permission to speak with him about a contract extension before making a trade pitch. 

MIXER: Blue Jackets facing no-win situation with Sergei Bobrovsky

Are the Leafs interested in Justin Faulk?

There was considerable speculation throughout the offseason over the Maple Leafs’ plans to improve their defense corps. As the Leafs approach the regular season, their blueline remains similar to the one that gave up the fourth-most shots against per game (33.9) last season.

During a segment last week with Toronto’s TSN 1050, insider Pierre LeBrun said he was told the Leafs expressed some interest this summer in Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk. The discussions didn’t go far and LeBrun suggests Leafs GM Kyle Dubas was simply calling around the league to see who might be available in the coming months. 

LeBrun feels Faulk, a right-handed shot with an affordable $4.83-million annual salary-cap hit through 2019-20, would be an obvious fit for the Leafs. He also carries a modified no-trade clause giving him some control over potential destinations. LeBrun thinks the Hurricanes could set a high asking price that the Leafs aren’t willing to pay at this time. 

Dubas, however, might change his mind if his defense corps doesn’t improve this season. Some might suggest a one-for-one swap of contract holdout William Nylander for Faulk as a suitable deal, but Dubas claims he’s not trading the young forward. 

After giving away left wing Jeff Skinner to the Sabres in August, the Hurricanes will want something more substantial for Faulk. If they put him on the trade market, their asking price from the Leafs could be one of their good young forwards.