Ottawa Senators forward Matt Duchene said Friday he will be looking out for No. 1 as he enters the final season of his contract.
Duchene told TSN Senior Hockey Reporter Frank Seravalli that while he's open to signing an extension with the Senators, he understands why John Tavares decided to hit the open market this summer.
"It’s the first time you have that ultimate power as a player and you have to do what’s best for you,” Duchene said.
The centre spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Colorado Avalanche before being traded to the Senators last November. He tallied 23 goals and 26 assists in 68 games upon joining the Senators, combining for a total of 27 goals and 59 points in 82 games with the two teams.
Duchene told Seravalli that he's yet to open contract talks with Senators, but noted general manager Pierre Dorion has been busy handling other situations.
"There’s been some big things going on that obviously take precedent over that," Duchene said.
The 27-year-old is one of three key players - along with Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone - on the Senators scheduled to hit free agency next July. He argued earlier this week that off-ice issues weren't to blame for the team's dismal 2017-18 season and said he believes the team won't allow the issues to faze them this season.
"Honestly, probably not as much as you would think," Duchene told the Canadian Press. "Last year just got away from us for a lot of reasons and we're looking to right those this year.
"We've got to just forget about it... It doesn't matter, it's over, it's in the past. Learn from it, obviously. We'll have a better culture in the locker room this year and it starts with the older guys leading the way and obviously we're probably going to have a little bit younger team and that will bring a lot of youth and exuberance to our team and that will be fun."
Duchene is entering the final season of a five-year, $30-million contract signed with the Avalanche and carries a $6 million cap hit into this season.