January 6, 2019 | 12:50pm ET



Matt Duchene, centre


As the Ottawa Senators sit last in the Eastern Conference with a 15-22-5 record through 42 games, much of the club’s attention moving forward will be put on pending unrestricted free agent forwards Matt Duchene and Mark Stone.

Both Duchene and Stone are set to become unrestricted free agents July 1 and could hit the market if they remain unsigned.

However, with the Feb. 25 trade deadline fast approaching, the Senators want to have an idea if either player will commit long-term to the organization. If not, they’ll be forced to move them.

Stone’s agent is expected to begin contract negotiations this coming week with the Senators, while Duchene’s agent has already had some preliminary talks with Sens GM Pierre Dorion in the first-half of the season.

However, during Saturday night’s “Headlines” segment on Hockey Night in Canada, Chris Johnston reported talks between the Senators and Duchene’s camp have cooled.

While there is still eight weeks to go before the trade deadline, contract negotiations will have to pick up significantly if the Senators want to avoid trading Duchene.

Both Duchene and Stone have indicated their desire to stay with the club, but these next eight weeks will ultimately decide their fate.