This NHL off-season will be a bit of a different one for General Manager Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators.
Due to the NHL adding a 32nd franchise next season, the Seattle Kraken, all other teams except for the Vegas Golden Knights will have to participate in an expansion draft. This article will breakdown which defensemen the Senators should protect from Seattle. If you missed our previous article about which goaltender they should protect, you can read that here.
The Senators have the choice to protect either seven forwards and three defensemen or a total of eight skaters from either position. Players in their first or second professional season are exempt from the draft. With this in mind I believe it makes the most sense for the Senators to protect three defensemen only.
The defensemen eligible for the expansion draft that the Senators have to decide if they want to protect or not are as follows; Thomas Chabot, Nikita Zaitsev, Josh Brown, Cody Goloubef and Victor Mete. This list isn’t exactly an all-star ballot of players so the decisions should be relatively easy for who the team decides to protect on the blue line.
Who to protect?
Thomas Chabot, age next season: 24, 7 years x $8 million remaining on contract
Protecting Chabot is probably one of the easiest decisions Dorion will ever have to make during his time as GM. Chabot is the backbone of this blueline and a building block for the team’s current rebuild. Chabot committed to the team long-term when he agreed to an eight year, eight million dollar contract extension a few years ago. There’s no way he is exposed in the expansion draft and protecting him is simply a formality.
Victor Mete, age next season: 23, RFA this summer
Mete was acquired by the Senators this past season from the Montreal Canadiens via the waiver wire. In his 14 games with the Senators he left a big enough impression on the team and the fanbase that I believe he should be protected by the Senators this summer. If there was more competition for protection spots among this group of current defensemen then the Senators might have a tougher decision on their hands with Mete. However, given the quality available, or lack thereof, there is no reason for the team not to roll the dice on Mete and use a protection spot on him.
Josh Brown, age next season: 27, 1 year x $1.2 million remaining on contract
Some of you may be scratching your head at the idea of protecting Brown in the expansion draft after his lack luster play for the majority of the season, but hear me out. Protecting Brown is more of a decision on who not to protect in hopes that Seattle takes them. Protecting Brown means leaving Zaitsev exposed in hopes that Seattle will take his awful contract off the team’s hands, freeing up a ton of money. Zaitsev’s play did improve this season, but he’s still not strong enough defensively or a good enough skater to be the ideal partner for Chabot. With the money the team would save from getting Zaitsev’s contract off the books they could explore options in free agency like David Savard or Dougie Hamilton who would make better long term defense partners for Chabot. Brown also provides decent depth and a physical presence when needed on the back end for one more year, providing some younger players more time to develop if needed.
These are the three players I would protect if I was in charge of the team. What I think the team will do however, is protect Zaitsev instead of Brown based off the way the organization typically operates and values “big minute defensemen.” At the end of the day it most likely won’t matter too much which defenseman of the two they decide to protect as the team is much more likely to lose a forward or goalie in the expansion draft. Which defensemen would you protect in the expansion draft? Let us know in the comments or on any of our social media channels!