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Matt Duchene celebrates a goal during a game in Ottawa on Jan. 5, 2019.Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

The Ottawa Senators traded centre Matt Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

Ottawa receives forward prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson, a first-round pick in June, 2019, and a conditional first-rounder in 2020 if Duchene re-signs in Columbus.

The 28-year-old Duchene is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Minor-league defenceman Julius Bergman also goes to the Blue Jackets in the deal.

The trade came hours before the teams were slated to face each other at the Canadian Tire Centre.

“Matt Duchene is an elite player in the National Hockey League and we are extremely excited to bring him to Columbus,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. “He is a tremendous skater, exceptional in the faceoff circle and a proven goal scorer and point producer in our league.

“We believe he is a tremendous fit for our team.”

The 2019 pick involved in the deal is lottery protected if it falls into the top three, meaning Ottawa would instead get the Blue Jackets’ first-rounder in 2020 under that scenario, and then receive their top selection in 2021 if Duchene re-signs.

Duchene, along with fellow pending unrestricted free agents Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel, were held out of the lineup by the Senators in Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils as the team looked protect its assets and avoid potential injuries ahead of Mondays’s NHL trade deadline.

“I want to thank the Senators organization for everything the past year and a bit,” Duchene said on Twitter. “It was so amazing to play in our nation’s capital in my home province, that’s something I’ll never forget.”

Coming off a playoff run that saw them fall in double overtime of Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final the previous spring, the Senators acquired Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche in November, 2017, as the centrepiece in a blockbuster three-team trade with Nashville.

It was thought the Senators would sign Duchene to a long-term deal, but a new contract never materialized as the team spiralled down the standings.

To make matters worse for Ottawa, the trade with Colorado and Nashville included the Senators giving up a first-round pick to the Avalanche – at the Senators’ choosing – in either 2018 or 2019.

The selection was not, however, lottery protected.

Ottawa decided to keep the No. 4 pick last June, grabbing winger Brady Tkachuk. But with the franchise currently sitting last in the NHL’s overall standings, the Senators are now staring down the very real possibility of missing out on either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko – the presumptive top-two picks – at the 2019 draft.

Duchene leaves Ottawa with 50 goals and 57 assists in 118 games, but those numbers did little to help the club in the win column. The Senators were just 39-69-10 with the native of Haliburton, Ont., in the lineup and an NHL-worst 44-73-11 since the trade.

“When we acquired Matt in November of 2017, we had hoped his addition would drive us to another deep playoff run,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said in a statement. “Obviously that did not materialize. More than a year ago, we shifted our focus to a proper rebuild of the entire organization. Our desire was to have Matt be part of this and as such we approached him with a fair and comprehensive contract offer to remain a Senator.

“As soon as it was determined that he did not want to be part of our rebuild, we shifted our focus to see what assets we could acquire in exchange for Matt that would help grow our pipeline of potential. We feel that both Vitaly and Jonathan, along with the first-round pick will help enhance the team’s future and fit with our continuing effort to build a younger, faster and stronger roster.”

The trade is the latest move in a tumultous tear down in Ottawa that has included a string of public relations disasters and saw captain and star defenceman Erik Karlsson dealt to the San Jose Sharks at the beginning of training camp.

The deal with Columbus is the second time this season Ottawa has made a trade with that night’s opponent. The Senators made a deal with the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 2 that centred around a swap of backup goalies Mike McKenna and Anders Nilsson.

Duchene coincidentally also played his first two games as a member of the Senators against the Avalanche in Sweden.

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