The Ottawa Senators have avoided arbitration with Mark Stone, signing the winger to a one-year deal worth US$7.35 million on Friday.
The deal came just as the team and the restricted free agent were set to have a hearing to determine the player’s contract for the 2018-19 season.
Stone had reportedly asked for $9 million in arbitration, while the team countered at $5 million.
The 26-year-old from Winnipeg, who can now become an unrestricted free agent next summer, tied for the Senators’ lead with 62 points in just 58 games in a lost 2017-18 campaign as the club stumbled to a 30th-place finish.
“We’re happy to have Mark under contract,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said in a quote posted to the team’s official Twitter feed. “Mark is a great leader in every sense; a character person, passionate competitor and a talented two-way player.
“Signing him is the first step in a process that allows us to continue to negotiate a long-term deal in the new year.”
As it stands now, Stone, star defenceman Erik Karlsson and centre Matt Duchene — Ottawa’s three best players — will all head into the coming season as pending unrestricted free agents.
The Senators and defenceman Cody Ceci had an arbitration hearing on Wednesday, with the player reportedly asking for $6 million, and the club coming in at $3.35 million. A decision was expected later Friday.
Stone has scored at least 20 goals in each of his four full NHL seasons, and registered a career-high 42 assists last year.
His 381 takeaways since the start of 2014-15 rank him first in the NHL, 84 more than the next closest player.
Selected 178th overall by Ottawa at the 2010 draft, Stone has 249 points (95 goals, 154 assists) in 307 NHL games.
Stone, who made $3.5 million in each of the last three seasons, also has five goals and eight assists in his 27 career playoff games.