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Duchene traded to Blue Jackets by Senators for picks, prospects

Center makes debut for Columbus against Ottawa, can become unrestricted free agent July 1

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Matt Duchene was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets by the Ottawa Senators on Friday for Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

The 28-year-old center had three shots in 19:11 in his Blue Jackets debut Friday, a 3-0 win at the Senators.

"I enjoyed myself out there," Duchene said. "It was obviously a good way to kind of end my time as a [Senator]. Actually [I] probably felt more comfortable because I was in this building than had we gone somewhere else."

 

[RELATED: 2018-19 NHL Trade Tracker | Complete trade coverage]

 

Before the game, Duchene said it felt odd to show up at Canadian Tire Centre as a visiting player.

"I've been through it before, playing against my old team the first game (last season with Ottawa against the Colorado Avalanche)," he said. "It's weird to be in the same building, I mean, to drive to the rink, have the same routine and it's a road game is strange.

"I came here this morning to get on the ice and (Senators general manager) Pierre (Dorion) pulled me aside and said it was close, so I went home and it ended up happening. I'm excited though, obviously. I really treasured my time in Ottawa. It's definitely a bittersweet thing. I was committed from the start of wanting to be here and be in Ottawa. Obviously, things change and you've got to make the right decision for your future. I'm excited to be a part of this team. This is a really good team and hopefully I can fit in well here."

Duchene is in the final season of a five-year contract he signed as a member of the Avalanche on July 18, 2013. He can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The 2019 first-round pick is top-three lottery pick protected; the Senators would receive a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 draft if Duchene signs a new contract with Columbus.

Tweet from @BlueJacketsNHL: 👋 @Matt9Duchene pic.twitter.com/3Z48Rn6VZ7

"We have a good team and we want to win this spring," Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. "We want to win. We want to prove to our fan base that we are serious about winning and we are in to win it.

"[Duchene] was the guy that we had targeted. The No. 1 guy for our needs, and that's why we're willing to take the risks he could just be a rental."

The Blue Jackets (34-23-3) are in third place in the Metropolitan Division and tied in points with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hold the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Senators (22-34-5) are last in the NHL.

Video: NHL Now looks at Columbus' acquisition of Duchene

The Senators and Duchene had contract discussions during the season, but he decided not to commit to Ottawa, at least not now. Dorion said Friday that the Senators felt they made a fair offer to Duchene and that his camp informed them that he wouldn't sign about a week ago.

"At the end of the day, for me, it came down to being a hockey decision for me," Duchene said. "Obviously, I think they're going to have an outstanding future over there. They've been very public about the rebuild process and things like that. I just felt at 28 years old, during the season especially, July 1, we'll see what happens and where I'm at then, but during the season it was a huge thing to commit to eight years somewhere where there's still a lot of question marks. The picture may be a little clearer maybe in the summer, so we'll see what happens then."

Dorion said, "From the start, we wanted to keep our core veterans. We've made every effort possible. We've gone to the wall to try and sign them. Today, we need to stay focused on the rebuild. Matt wanted to be part of a contender, and if with us, was possibly going to test free agency. As an organization, we had to get good assets for him. Young players need core veterans around them. 

"We feel we have quality veterans in (Cody) Ceci, (Zack) Smith, (Jean-Gabriel) Pageau, (Mark) Borowiecki, (Bobby) Ryan and (Craig) Anderson. We're still working on convincing a few others to stay. However, we have to be prepared for every scenario." 

Duchene had 58 points (27 goals, 31 assists) in 50 games for Ottawa this season. He was acquired by the Senators from the Avalanche as part of a three-team trade that included the Nashville Predators on Nov. 5, 2017. Duchene had 49 points (23 goals, 26 assists) in 68 games with the Senators last season following the trade.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel each was a healthy scratch for the Senators on Friday for the second straight game; the two forwards and Duchene were held out of the lineup in a 4-0 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. Stone and Dzingel can each become a UFA on July 1.

"I was looking at all that stuff," Duchene said. "I don't know what's going on with [Stone]. I have no idea if he's staying or going or what's happening, same with [Dzingel], I'm not sure. But that's some of the uncertainty. I mean, you have two huge pieces there that are up in the air, and when there's big questions like that, again, during the season, you just run out of time in your decision process."

Regarding Stone, Dorion said, "I think we're disappointed in not fielding the best possible team, but at the same time, and this onus is on me, I think we have to find balance in doing what's best for the organization, and at this point in time, he's not playing."

Selected by Colorado in the first round (No. 3) of the 2009 NHL Draft, Duchene has 535 points (228 goals, 307 assists) in 705 regular-season games and six assists in eight Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Columbus also received defenseman Julius Bergman in the trade. The 23-year-old, who was playing with Belleville of the American Hockey League, was a second-round pick (No. 46) by the San Jose Sharks in the 2014 NHL Draft. Bergman was traded to the Senators on June 19, 2018 

Abramov, a 20-year-old forward, was selected in the third round (No. 65) of the 2016 NHL Draft. He has 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 52 games with Cleveland of the American Hockey League.

Davidsson, a 21-year-old forward, was chosen in the sixth round (No. 170) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) with Djurgardens of the Swedish Hockey League.

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