In the way that the NHL typically works, the Ottawa Senators will be a team “selling” at this season’s NHL trade deadline. The team’s 1-5-4 record in its last 10 games almost assures that this season’s playoffs are simply now out of reach.
Interestingly, the Senators were not long ago hanging around a 50/50 season, where the team had won as many as it had lost. Even then, however, there was little chance that the team was going anywhere in 2019-20 – it just isn’t the year for that.
Right now, the Senators are buried deep in the Eastern Conference standings with only 40 points in 47 games, with only the Detroit Red Wings holding them up in the standings.
There’s no question that it’s a good time to move contracts of players who need to be re-signed or shop players with value in a way to stockpile prospects and future draft picks.
This situation leads us to the question: What should the Senators do with Anthony Duclair? In this post, I want to argue against what might be the prevailing wisdom and suggest that the Senators should NOT trade Duclair – even if they might be able to gain a prospect or two in the transaction. Before explaining why I believe this is the case, I want to highlight Duclair’s experience since he’s been with Ottawa.
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Duclair’s Experience in Ottawa
When Duclair became a Senator during the middle of last season, his game was at a crossroads. If he was going to have more time in the NHL, he needed to play well. For a youngster with apparent talent, he’d been well-traveled. His career had started with the New York Rangers, then moving to the Arizona Coyotes, then to the Chicago Blackhawks, and then to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was with four teams in six seasons and, for as many chances as he’d had, he simply couldn’t stick.
However, when he moved to the Senators at the 2019 trade deadline, things changed. With his back against the wall, during his time with the team, Duclair started to show some of the skill that had stayed hidden. He had 14 points in 21 games.
And, if last season seemed like an oddity, he showed this season that it wasn’t. He didn’t stop scoring and this season he’s been even better. Currently, he’s scored 32 points in 46 games.
I hope he stays with the Senators for three reasons.
Reason One: He’s a Hometown Player
In the nation’s capital, with the kind of production Duclair has mustered, it matters that he’s playing close to home. Where he’s from, Pointe-Claire, Quebec, is only about 150 kilometers east of Ottawa. Certainly, I believe that proximity to home encouraged him to re-sign with the team at the end of the 2018-19 season.
The young forward is at home in Ottawa and has played like he wants to stay. As I noted earlier, Duclair had always shown promise, but until he came to the Senators he’d never shown his skills in such a demonstrable way.
In Ottawa, he seems to have found a home where he’s fit. And, given his relative youth – he’s only 24 – I have to think he’d like to keep doing as well as he has in a place that’s comfortable for him. It can’t be easy moving season after season. I say the Senators should make him feel at home with a contract extension. Why wouldn’t he want to stay for a while?
Reason Two: He Can Be a Big Part of the Senators’ Rebuild
One reason Duclair has had such success with the Senators is that he’s one of only a few realistic scoring options. Some more established players might balk at being on a rebuilding team, but if you think about it that situation offers Duclair a chance to star. Given that he’s still very young, even if he signed a three-year contract extension should he wish to move after his next contract – should he sign it – he’d still be in his prime.
For Duclair, being in the midst of a rebuild isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He can hone his leadership, work on perfecting his game, and become even a more productive scorer. He’ll be able to produce higher scoring numbers with the Senators because he’d be one of only a few experienced scoring options.
And, on the flip side, all these same opportunities for Duclair also spell possibility and success for the Senators. In June 2019, he was an RFA and signed a one-year, $1.65 million contract extension. If Duclair (and the Senators) are wise, he can be re-upped for perhaps $3 million. That contract might be a bargain for the Senators and a desirable option for Duclair.
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Reason Three: After Seasons of Promise, This Season He Has Delivered
In Ottawa, for the first time in his career, Duclair has value. If he had had success regularly throughout his NHL career, I’d think he might be more attractive to other teams at the trade deadline. But, he hasn’t.
Duclair’s success has happened in Ottawa, and that fact might limit what the Senators could fetch for him on the trade market. In fact, it might be more prudent to keep Duclair in a Senators’ uniform than to try to replace him with someone better. In fact, this season, who might be better?
Reason Four: Duclair Fits in Ottawa
Duclair has had periods of feast or famine with the Senators, but one thing has remained constant. Head coach D.J. Smith hasn’t cut Duclair’s ice time – even if he’s struggled. As a result, Duclair keeps getting regular ice time and regular shifts. That might not happen in another situation, and Duclair has to be wise enough to know that.
Were he to be traded and then not produce or be up-and-down, would his coach keep throwing him out on the ice for regular shifts? That’s rhetorical – he probably would not. And where would Duclair be then? If I’m correct and his confidence is as fragile as I think it might be, Ottawa probably fits his needs better than a contender.
I Believe the Senators Should Make Duclair at Home
So, what will the Senators’ management do with Duclair? Will they seek to move him at the trade deadline? I, for one, hope they don’t. Duclair’s had a career-high scoring, with 21 goals and 32 points in 41 games. He’s also been named to the All-Star team for the first time in his career. It’s been a breakout season.
The Senators might be rebuilding, but there are hints that the team might just want him to stick around as part of their future. He’s young and he’s productive. Duclair was let go from so many other teams, but with the Senators, he’s found another gear.
I think he has a better chance to remain in high gear with the Senators than with any other team in the NHL. I hope the Senators share my beliefs. Furthermore, I hope Duclair shares my beliefs.
If Duclair receives an offer from the Senators before his contract runs out, will he sign it? I hope he sees Ottawa as a place he belongs – a home and a place where he fits.
Finally, considering he was almost out of the NHL, job security in terms of something like a three-year extension should look good. If this season’s Duclair is the real deal, there are worse places to call home than the Ottawa Senators.
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