After months of speculation, this is where the rubber meets the road for the Ottawa Senators. It’s a critical juncture for this franchise.
General manager Pierre Dorion’s only priority between now and the Feb. 25 trading deadline is to maximize the return for both Matt Duchene and Mark Stone.
You have to think that, over the next week or so, Dorion will put these guys out and have trade talks with teams because there's been very little meaningful progress made so far in terms of negotiations on an extension.
When you look back at the Erik Karlsson trade made last September, the Senators got a lot of quantity coming back with the quality still to be determined. In any return for Duchene and Stone, this team needs first-round draft picks if they're rebuilding.
If you look at the top contenders – Boston, Nashville, Vegas, Calgary and Winnipeg for example – who could the Sens consider?
From Winnipeg? TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button suggests forward Jack Roslovic or Kristian Vesalainen. Or Eeli Tolvanen from Nashville. Perhaps Calgary's Dillon Dube. That's the type of quality Ottawa needs in a return for Duchene and Stone.
On defence, there's no question that Thomas Chabot is on top of the Senators' present and future depth chart. They also have prospects like Jacob Bernard-Docker coming, but they will need a few players to bridge the gap and provide a cushion for guys like Max Lajoie. That's especially important if the Sens plan to move Cody Ceci before the deadline.
That said, Button maintains the need to keep quality in mind - perhaps someone like Vegas prospect Erik Brannstrom or regular Shea Theodore. Juuso Valimaki of the Flames, Dante Fabbro of the Predators and Boston's Urho Vaakanainen are other names to consider.
We'll see where Dorion ends up when it comes to first-round picks. This year they are one of the few rebuilding teams that don’t have one - courtesy of their trade with the Avalanche to acquire...Matt Duchene. Colorado currently has an 18.1 per cent shot of winning the Jack Hughes sweepstakes in the Draft Lottery.