The 2019 NHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching. One of the teams that will be sellers is the Ottawa Senators. The Sens have been more competitive than some may have expected, however, still find themselves in the basement of the NHL. Their three forwards with the highest point totals this year are all UFA’s at the end of the season. Ottawa has tough decisions to make with all three, however, no tougher than Mark Stone.
Mark Stone, Key Piece Or Trade Bait?
Talk to any Sens fan and they will tell you who the heart of the team is. It is Mark Stone. Stone has become a fan favourite in Ottawa. With his personality and his amazing on-ice talent. He has become another gem the Sens have found. Stone was drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He is now one of the best wingers in the league.
This past season, Stone was an RFA (restricted free agent). He opted to sign a one-year deal instead of a long term which makes him a UFA (unrestricted free agent) at the end of this season. That means Stone can go to free agency once the season is over. This leaves both Mark Stone and the Sens with some tough choices. For Stone, he has to decide whether he wants to stay in Ottawa long-term through a rebuild. Or, if he wants to go to a team better suited for a cup shot while he is in his prime.
For the Senators, they have to decide if they want to give Stone a big contract. As well, if he does want to accept it, what to do at the trade deadline.
Let’s start with the one almost all Sens fans will want. Mark Stone re-signing in Ottawa on a long-term deal. This makes all kinds of sense for Ottawa and some for Stone too. For Ottawa, bringing back a top 5 winger in the entire NHL while he’s in his prime is a no brainer. However, what may cause trouble is the contract. Sens owner Eugene Melnyk is notoriously cheap and Stone will no doubt want a big payday. Ottawa will have to be willing out to give Stone a big contract.
For Mark Stone, it makes sense too. Ottawa is where he has called home for 6 years now. He has many great memories here, including that 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff run. Or the 2015 Hamburgler run. He is also almost guaranteed to be the next captain if he stays. Now, maybe this isn’t a good thing for all players. However, having the same honour as Erik Karlsson or Daniel Alfredsson seems like a good thing to me. There’s no doubt if he sticks around he would be the captain.
He would also be the fan favourite, more than he is now, that is. A big UFA getting a deal done and re-signing would no doubt bring joy to Sens fans. It is hard to see a world where his jersey doesn’t become the most popular one on the shelf.
There is some good with re-signing, however, there is also some bad for Mark Stone. First, would be the owner, Eugene Melnyk. It obviously depends on the offer, but if Melnyk/Dorion low balls Stone, he may not want to stick around. There is no reason for Stone to take a massive discount. He has already been on a good contract for years, it is his chance to get paid. That doesn’t mean he needs to ask for 12 million. But, if the Sens only go up to 8 million per year it may be in Mark Stones best interest to test the market.
Next, there is the drama. The Sens have been in the spotlight for the past year due to many reasons. The first round pick, Melnyk, the arena deal. There is the possibility Stone would rather get out of the spotlight here. Honestly, could you blame him?
Lastly, he may not want to stick around for a rebuild. There is always a chance a player wants to go and win while they can contribute lots to a team. While that may not be the case with Mark Stone, it could be a possibility.
The biggest thing for the Sens is that Stone can not walk away without getting anything for him. As hard as it is to say, if a deal isn’t done by the trade deadline, Ottawa needs to trade him. This is on Ottawa’s management as much as it is Stone. However, the bottom line is the Sens can’t have a John Tavares situation.
Without their first-round pick already, if Ottawa is going to be losing a player of Stone’s calibre they need to get assets back. Him walking to another team on July 1st would be disastrous. The Sens are in a rebuild and need all the assets they can get. If that asset isn’t Stone on a long term deal, it needs to be pieces in a trade.
Ideally, the Sens get their star player under contract long term. He is only 26 and will still be able to contribute for a while. However, if Ottawa and Stone can’t strike a deal, a trade needs to be made to get back some assets. Letting your star player walk for nothing during a rebuild is something the Senators can’t afford.