Much of the Ottawa Senators‘ offseason news was about Brady Tkachuk’s contract, as opposed to Drake Batherson’s, and rightfully so. Tkachuk’s negotiations were filled with dialogue and drama that lasted all offseason. When it was all said and done, the Senators got their captain signed, but not without a fight. It created separation among the fanbase at the time, and in comparison to Batherson’s negotiations, they were the total opposite. He didn’t drag it out, demand a certain dollar figure, or squeeze out the finer details.
When he spoke with the media in May about his upcoming restricted free agent status he said, “It’s my first time going through this. I will let my agent take care of that. I want to be part of this going forward. I love these guys. I’ve been around the staff here forever … I love it.”
That’s exactly what came to fruition. The negotiations came together quickly, the fans loved it and it’s now among one of the best value contracts in the NHL.
The 23-year-old winger came to terms on a six-year, $29.85 million contract on Sept. 3 with an average annual value (AAV) of $4.975 million. With the way Batherson has started his sophomore campaign, the contract is already paying dividends for the Senators.
Senators’ Money Was Well Spent
Drake Batherson was drafted in the fourth round (121st overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the majority of his first two seasons with the Belleville Senators, of the American Hockey League (AHL), dominating the competition. In 103 games, Batherson recorded 116 points (38 goals and 78 assists) and was consistently being called up to play with the Sens in the NHL. He had suited up in 43 games for the Sens over two years prior to his rookie campaign in 2020-21.
As it would be for many young players stepping into the NHL for the first time, adjusting to the speed and skill level wasn’t an easy hurdle to overcome. He only recorded 19 points and was a minus-14. It was clear from the get-go that he had the potential to be a good NHL player, but more time spent developing his game in the AHL was needed. When Batherson finally made the team on full-time status last season, he stunned everyone recording 34 points in 56 games (17 goals and 17 assists), visibly driving the offence, and was mentioned in talks for the Calder Trophy.
With such a small sample size in the NHL, it was tough to predict exactly where this contract coming out of his entry-level would land. Up until this point, he had played just under 100 NHL games (99 to be exact). However, Batherson had shown in that small time frame he could play and produce among the league’s best, and assume a role as a leader on the Sens’ top line and power play with Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris. He earned himself the recognition of being a core player in the Sens’ future along with the aforementioned players and company, so keeping their No. 1 line intact was a big part of their offseason plans.
When the news broke that Batherson had signed a six-year deal, the fanbase was pumped, and even more so when they saw the dollar amount. Last season he was on pace for about 65-70 points, and today, he’s flirting with roughly 80, matching and exceeding the expectations from his rookie campaign. He started off slow, managing just one goal in the first five games, but that didn’t last long.
“He’s shooting the puck now and he’s moving and you can see that he has confidence,” head coach D.J. Smith said. “He’s really good on the power play, he’s finding the net and he’s making plays. He’s being physical and he’s playing as well as anybody that we have.” (from ‘GARRIOCH: Senators’ winger Drake Batherson takes NHL’s second star of the week honours.’ Ottawa Sun, 01/11/21). If Batherson keeps this pace, it would have to be right at the top of the list in comparison to other players around the league when analyzing their production in dollar value.
Senators Are Cashing in Their Return on Investment
If we take a look at today’s NHL point standings, Batherson is currently sitting at 16 points, tied with 10 other players for 14th overall. There are only four points separating him from the top-5 and let’s be honest, no one is catching Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl or Alex Ovechkin anytime soon. So, if we remove those three from the equation, Batherson is scoring at a pace similar to those of superstar calibre while making anywhere from $3-5 million less than the players just above and below him.
Not only is he in the conversation with the NHL’s top players, but he also leads the Sens in points (16), goals (7) and assists (9) on a team that’s been struggling mightily. He recorded his first career hat-trick earlier this season against the Washington Capitals, and it was a night to remember, as he did it in front of his family, including his father Norm Batherson. Norm was a part of the Senators’ organization playing for their affiliates the Thunder Bay Senators of the Colonial Hockey League (ColHL) and the Prince Edward Island Senators of the AHL back in 1993-1994.
“It was pretty special. I had my dad in the stands, a couple of my buddies and some relatives, so it was a special night. My dad said he lost his hat so I have to get him a new one. It would have been nice to get the win, but it was really special to have him here.” (from ‘GARRIOCH: A tip of the cap to Drake Batherson’s confidence after his three-goal effort’ Ottawa Sun, 26/10/21).
His first hat-trick would be followed up with a nod from the NHL, being named the second star of the week from Oct. 25-31, the first of his career. Looking at his advanced metrics, they show no signs of him not being able to keep this going and staring at an 80 point season in the face. For a player who makes less than $5 million on the cap, where can I sign up for that type of return?
What Does the Future Hold for Batherson and the Senators?
Right now, the Senators are in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, which has caused the league to finally step in and postpone their next three games. Batherson was the tenth and final player added to the list before the stoppage, but not before he had a four-point night against the Pittsburgh Penguins – a game he originally tested positive for but then had produced two negatives before game-time. It didn’t seem to affect him though, elevating his game that night to carry his team out of a six-game losing streak with a depleted roster.
Hopefully, when all the players get healthy and the games resume they can pick up right where they left off. Batherson has been so good this season he’s even getting his name thrown out there when it comes to Team Canada and the Olympic roster. That might be a bit of a stretch but considering how well he has played over the last two seasons, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.
He does train in the offseason out east with Sidney Crosby, Brad Marchand and Nathan MacKinnon so there’s already some chemistry brewing within the lineup. However, when you have to compete with Mackinnon, Patrice Bergeron, Mitch Marner, Mark Stone and Mathew Barzal for those spots on the right-side, the idea fades pretty quickly. Just the fact alone that Batherson is even coming up in these discussions is fantastic. The Senators have a great player on their hands for the foreseeable future, and his value will only rise as the years go on.
Giovanni Siciliano is a freelance contributor for The Hockey Writers that focuses on the Ottawa Senators. He is a lifelong hockey fan who aims to give his readers more knowledge and better insight pertaining to the game. When Giovanni isn’t covering the latest news & rumours in Ottawa, he is usually crying about being a Detroit Lions fan, playing video games or rewatching The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Office or Seinfeld for the 1000th time. After completing an internship at The Hockey News, and having his stories published like this one, Giovanni knew he wanted to make this a career and share his passion for the game with others. He hosted the FaceOff Hockey Podcast before joining the team at THW, and currently co-hosts and produces the Improversation podcast. To interact with Giovanni about the Sens, NHL, NFL, T.V shows or games, you can follow him on Twitter by clicking here. You can also read more of his articles here.