Back in February, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk vowed he would be prepared to spend “close to the NHL’s salary cap every year from 2021 to 2025” with the promise of an all-in, five-year run of “unparalleled success.”
On Thursday, the team backed up those words by signing their best young defenceman, Thomas Chabot, to a lucrative eight-year extension worth $64 million.
Chabot’s contract, which kicks in beginning in the 2020-21 season and carries an $8-million cap hit, is much more than just a big paycheque for a budding star. After a pretty brutal tear-down in Ottawa with several cringe-worthy (and very public) hiccups mixed in, Chabot’s deal represents not just hope for brighter days ahead but concrete evidence that the franchise is gearing up for Phase II of what has been a rough rebuild: The Fun Part.
In two seasons as a Senator, the first-round pick (18th overall, 2015) has proven he’s a no-brainer first-pairing defenceman who will definitely play a strong leadership role as a major cornerstone of this exciting young core. Erik Karlsson‘s skates are hard to fill, but Chabot’s growth and development in the wake of Karlsson’s departure has served as the silver lining of what was likely the most painful part of the entire tear-down process.
The signing of Colin White, drafted just three spots behind Chabot in 2015, to a six-year, $28.5-million deal last month was another big step in the bright direction.
For Chabot, who was scheduled to be a restricted free agent next July, signing for maximum term represents a huge vote of confidence in this franchise and its trajectory. Now, not only is the 22-year-old foregoing any RFA options, he’s also delaying any sniff of the open market until 2028. That takes him right through his 20s, typically crucial years for elite players looking to cash in on a second post-ELC deal, as he’ll be 31 years old by the time this deal expires.
This goes against the trend we’ve seen with this year’s class of RFAs, with many (see Charlie McAvoy and Brock Boeser, for example) signing bridge deals for a nice payday and betting on themselves to earn even more a few years down the road.
Chabot’s $8-million AAV will make him the highest-paid Senator next season — that’s currently Bobby Ryan, coming in at $7.25 million per year. League-wide, he’ll be tied with Jacob Trouba, Brent Burns, and John Carlson for the fifth-highest AAV at his position — that’s some elite company, but considering his career stats so far (23 goals and 80 points through 134 games while finding his footing in the pros) he’s already proven that he belongs there.
A little more cap context: Karlsson is currently the NHL’s highest-paid defenceman after re-signing with the Sharks back in June to stay in San Jose (eight years, $92-million, $11.5M cap hit), while Kings’ rearguard Drew Doughty (eight years, $88M, $11M cap hit). P.K. Subban‘s ($9M per year) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($8.25M) fill out the top four.
Here are three other contracts that add a little bit of context to Chabot’s new deal:
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Eight years, $60 million, $7.5-million cap hit | Signed: July 1, 2016 (age 20)
Like the Senators with Chabot, the Panthers locked up Ekblad to his eight-year pact with a season still remaining on his entry-level contract. (Hey, when you know, you know.) Ekblad was a bit younger than Chabot when he got his start, as the 2014 first overall pick jumped straight into the big leagues after being drafted and signed his extension at just 20 years old. If you compare the players’ first two seasons, the numbers line up pretty well with Chabot showing more offensive upside early. Ekblad tallied 27 goals and 75 points in 159 games over his first two seasons, including a 39-point rookie season he has yet to top, while Chabot registered 23 goals and 80 points in 134 games in his rookie and sophomore season combined.
Jacob Trouba, New York Rangers
Seven years, $56 million, $8 million cap hit | Signed: July 19, 2019 (age 25)
Trouba, who was dealt to the Rangers this past summer as an RFA before signing a pact in New York, earned $6 million over two years after the expiration of his ELC and then was awarded $5.5 million in arbitration last summer in his second stint as an RFA. Chabot will skate past all that with his eight-year pact featuring as much job security as you can get in this league. There’s a three-year age gap between the two, but their stats line up pretty nicely — both players hit the 50-point mark for the first time in 2018-19, making for what could be fun comparison over the next few years as they lead their respective blue lines.
Josh Morrissey, Winnipeg Jets
Eight years, $50 million, $6.25-million cap hit | Signed: Sep 12, 2019 (age 25)
Morrissey followed the path that we’re used to seeing with young defencemen: First comes the prove-it bridge deal (or, in Trouba’s case, two of them), then you really get paid. Morrissey, 25, signed a two-year, $6.3-million bridge deal with Winnipeg in 2018 and still has one more year of that $3.15M cap hit before his new contract kicks in. While not quite in the same tier of talent as Chabot, it’s a good comparison to show the typical trend of promising young rearguards and how much value teams place on having that solid presence on the blue line. Morrissey (19 goals, 77 points in 223 NHL games so far) doesn’t have the same offensive abilities as Chabot but has provided a steady hand for the Jets — an especially crucial role in the wake of losing Trouba. Both contracts look like great investments for their respective clubs and will continue to increase in value in the coming years.