The Ottawa Senators have avoided the stress of next summer by re-signing pending restricted free agent (RFA) and star defenseman Thomas Chabot. The deal is for eight years, $64 million and is a big step forward for the young squad.
With the drama around numerous RFA’s this summer, general manager Pierre Dorion and the Senators planned ahead by locking up their best player for another eight years. Chabot has one year left on his entry-level contract, so this raise will begin in the 2020-21 season.
Dorion had high praise for the star player after signing the new deal.
“Thomas is an exceptional talent and an outstanding teammate, who is impactful both on and off the ice. He is the type of player that can develop into a core member of a championship-level team in the National Hockey League.
“He is an NHL all-star; an elite skater and puck-mover who plays with pace and determination. We are convinced Thomas will have a significant impact on the Ottawa Senators as we develop and grow into a highly competitive team.”
While the contract holds an annual average value of $8 million, it’s spread out as follows:
Chabot is coming off of a franchise-record-setting season that saw him set career-highs in goals (14), assists (41), and points (55). This led the Senators and was 10th among NHL defensemen. He did this while playing a career and team-high 24:17 of average time on ice.
He was also the team’s lone All-Star in 2018-19 while setting a Senators record for most points by a defenseman in their first 100 games (62). In 134 games, the defender has 23 goals, 57 assists and 80 points. That’s in just two seasons of play.
Chabot Signing a Big Step Forward for Senators
The signing is a big win for the Senators, as it’s the best move the club has made in a long time. With numerous stars leaving the organization last season from Erik Karlsson to Mark Stone, the Chabot extension is a big step in the right direction, showing that the team is willing to invest in its players and – more importantly – players are willing to stay long-term.
An important piece of this contract is that it has no signing or performance bonuses. This was widely thought to be an issue in the Karlsson, Stone and Matt Duchene negotiations, but this deal is proof that star players can be signed without them. With Chabot signing without any, it may even inspire other young members of the club to do so.
Chabot joins Colin White as the other RFA signed this offseason and, along with defenseman Nikita Zaitsev and Bobby Ryan, are the only players signed past 2020-21. With White and Chabot locked up though, it bodes well that other star players could follow.
2020 Offseason Will Be Busy
The 2019-20 Senators opening night roster will be very different from the 2018-19 roster. It’s safe to say that the 2020-21 season will follow suit. The club enters the second season of their rebuild with likely just 10 players signed past next season.
Among the many unrestricted free agents are Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Mikkel Boedker, Tyler Ennis, Ron Hainsey, Dylan DeMelo, Mark Borowiecki, and Craig Anderson. It’s very likely that many of these players won’t finish the 2019-20 campaign in Ottawa.
The RFA’s will be more intriguing to follow. The club will need to decide on the futures of Chris Tierney, Connor Brown, Anthony Duclair, Max Veronneau, Christian Jaros, Rudolfs Balcers, Nick Paul, Filip Chlapik, Jack Rodewald, and Joey Daccord, among others. It should be a very busy year for Dorion.
But the good news for Senators fans is that one of the biggest names on the 2020 RFA market is locked up long term.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.