Center Matt Duchene is one of several key members of the Columbus Blue Jackets who will enter unrestricted free agency when the new league year starts on July 1, but he does so with plenty to think about before making his final decision.
Not sure what to expect when he was acquired by the Blue Jackets in a trade with the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline, Duchene settled in during the stretch run of the regular season and became an integral part of the offense in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It's a big moment in my life, probably the biggest decision I'll ever have to make,” Duchene said. “It's definitely the biggest I've made to this point. I'm definitely going to take my time and talk to my family and my representation and figure out what’s best.
“I think it’s just smart to do at this point. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ve been so happy to be a Blue Jacket and been grateful to be here. Obviously, it would be a great thing if it could continue. We’ll see what happens.”
During 23 regular-season games with the Blue Jackets, Duchene registered four goals, eight assists and 12 points with three even-strength tallies and one power-play score on 46 shots.
Through 10 postseason games with Columbus, Duchene tallied five goals, including three on the power play, along with five assists, ten points and a plus-four rating, meaning Columbus has outscored the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins by four goals during his time on the ice.
Duchene has a 27.8 percent success rate with his shots on goal, meaning he scored on five of his 18 looks on goal, including the game-winner on the man advantage in double overtime in Game 2 in Boston, and then, in the second period of Game 3 in Columbus.
“I’m hoping we can get him re-signed because I think you saw what he brought to this team just in his abilities on the ice,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. “I think he’s a great guy in the room. Guys really loved him. I think he brought an element to our locker room that really helped us.
“Then, on the ice, that speaks for itself what he can do. The thing with Dutchy is that he wants that pressure. He wants that responsibility of being that go-to guy, and I think he can back it up because he’s such a student of the game. He’s a guy that really wants it, and you want guys like that.”
Regardless of the decision Duchene will make in the near future, one thing is for sure, his time in Columbus was both memorable and well spent.
“Unbelievable group of guys,” Duchene said. “The culture here is great. It’s a winning culture, top to bottom. There’s not one aspect where you go, ‘Okay, this needs to be changed or this needs to be better.’ I was blown away by it.
“I had heard from guys I had played with and others around the league how great of a group they had here. It definitely didn’t disappoint. As far as the city and the fans, just wow. Did not expect that. Amazing city, great fan base. Simple as that. The experience that we just had, and for me, that’s right up there with some of my best memories and best experiences I’ve had in hockey.”