After his breakout performance last season, Chabot has been locked in long-term by the Senators, who are ensuring they have their young No. 1 rearguard around for the long haul as they build towards a brighter future.
Thomas Chabot|Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images
Nothing was going to entirely alleviate the pain felt by Ottawa Senators’ faithful following Erik Karlsson’s trade out of town ahead of the 2018-19 season, but if anything dulled the sting ever-so-slightly, it was Thomas Chabot’s arrival as a true-blue top-pairing defenseman in Canada’s capital. And Thursday morning, the Senators ensured that Ottawa will be Chabot’s home well into the future.
With Chabot set to enter into the final campaign of his three-year, entry-level pact this season, the Senators announced the 22-year-old rearguard has been inked to a massive eight-year, $64-million extension. When it kicks in next season, Chabot’s $8-million cap hit will make him the highest-paid Senator, and, as of this moment, Chabot is set to enter next season tied with the New York Rangers’ Jacob Trouba, San Jose Sharks’ Brent Burns and Washington Capitals’ John Carlson for the fifth-highest cap hit of any NHL rearguard.
“He is an NHL all-star; an elite skater and puck-mover who plays with pace and determination,” Senators GM Pierre Dorion said of Chabot’s signing in a release. “We are convinced Thomas will have a significant impact on the Ottawa Senators as we develop and grow into a highly competitive team over the coming seasons and we are extremely proud that Thomas will continue to be a key part of our team’s future success moving forward. Today is a great day for the Ottawa Senators franchise.”
For those not all too familiar with Chabot’s exploits, that might seem a hard sell from Dorion. Rest assured, however, that it’s not. On base statistics alone, Chabot asserted himself as one of the top blueline producers in the NHL last season, firing home 14 goals and 55 points in 70 games, marks that ranked eighth and 10th in the NHL, respectively. His .79 points per game rate was also the eighth-best among all big-league blueliners, and he mustered that level of production on a team that finished 17th in the league in overall offense. His offensive output garnered him league-wide attention, too, as he received a Norris Trophy vote and some end-of-season all-star team consideration.
But Chabot’s game is hardly one-dimensional, and his proficiency for stat-sheet stuffing is complemented by play-driving ability that makes him an incredible asset in the modern game.
While Chabot’s overall underlying numbers were rather unremarkable last season – he finished with a 48.1 Corsi percentage, 47.8 shots percentage, 49.1 scoring chance percentage and 48.5 goals percentage at 5-on-5 in 2018-19 – his performance relative to the rest of the Senators was what stood out. To wit, his 5.6 relative Corsi percentage was the second-best among the 124 NHL defensemen with 1,000-plus minutes at 5-on-5 last season, and he was top 10 in relative shots percentage (4.5), relative scoring chance percentage (5.3) and goals for percentage (10.5). His expected goals for percentage relative to his teammates was also 6.3 percent, second-best among the same group of 124 rearguards. This is all to say Chabot tilts the ice in the Senators’ favor at five-a-side in a way few others in Ottawa can.
Locking up Chabot at this juncture is about more than keeping an incredibly talented up-and-comer in the lineup, however. It also sets the tone for what lies ahead and puts in place a foundational piece around which the rest of the roster can be built.
Chabot is both the Senators’ present and future No. 1 rearguard, and Ottawa, while going about it in a scorched-earth manner, has assembled a group of promising prospects who can surround Chabot down the line. Erik Brannstrom, for instance, is considered one of the best young defenders in the world, and he’s likely to make the leap to full-time NHL duty this season. Jacob Bernard-Docker is also a talented prospect who is projected to slot into the Senators’ lineup in a few seasons’ time. Add in Ottawa’s nine draft choices in the first two rounds across the next two drafts and there’s ample room to add another uber-talented piece to the future D-corps.
A strong defensive group anchored by Chabot will also be accompanied by a promising group of prospects up front, as well. The first taste of what’s to come came last season when Brady Tkachuk and Colin White helped lead the Senators’ attack, but the offense will be further supplemented by young guns such as Drake Batherson, Alex Formenton and Josh Norris, each of whom should be skating regular minutes with the next couple of seasons. And much like the blueline, the offense can be further bolstered with the mountain of picks the Senators have compiled. While the current on-ice product leaves much to be desired, the assets Ottawa possesses puts them in a somewhat enviable position from a team-building perspective.
And as the Senators continue to round out the lineup and build around a core that includes Chabot, as well as Brannstrom, Tkachuk, White, Batherson and others, the benefit of striking a long-term deal with Chabot now is that it sets his cap hit for the next nine campaigns. It locks him in at $8-million per season on through the near-certain cap rise that will come as a result of a new U.S. television deal and through a Seattle expansion process that could further elevate the spending limit. A bridge deal, on the other hand, likely would have put Chabot in a position to command upwards of the $8-million per season he’s set to earn, and depending on comparables, it’s not entirely out of the question that he could have earned an eight-digit pact following a three- or four-year bridge deal.
So, sure, in no season soon will his $8-million cap hit look like a steal, but it’ll be far more team-friendly around the time Chabot is entering his actual prime – which, amazingly, is probably still a few years off – than it might appear right now. And if the Senators continue to build through the draft, stockpile young talent and graduate the best of that bunch to the bigs, Chabot stands to be leading the blueline of a perennial playoff contender while there’s still plenty of time left on his contract. Chalk that up as a win for the Senators.
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