Updated: Sep 28, 2019
"Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of foulness I can't even imagine. Or maybe I just don't want to."
For over two years, Ottawa Senators' fans have been put through the ringer, their franchise the punch line of the NHL. Their team was dead last overall, deleting one star player after another, working on a shoestring budget for everything, and enduring an embarrassment of rich embarrassments. The club's 2019 vow to rebuild with good, young prospects was impossible to fully accept because this club would never financially commit to its new core of emerging talent, right?
The club gave us a hint of its sincerity when it recently signed forward Colin White to a six year deal. But Thomas Chabot was the big fish out there. Could they land him? Would he even want to sign here with all that's gone on? Today the Sens took a major step in showing their rebuild is for real, signing Chabot to a maximum 8 year extension at 8 million dollars per season.
Sens fans are probably feeling a little like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption today. They've had a rough go (although not nearly as bad as Dufresne), but managed to crawl through two years of foul headlines, finally emerging on the other side, feeling both happiness and relief. Their team is back and competing for real again.
This Chabot signing is a massive step in renewing levels of trust, and not just between team and fan base. Getting a long term buy-in from a player like Chabot will resonate loudly with other targeted core players, especially Brady Tkachuk, who'll be eligible for an extension next summer. In my interview with Chabot back in the spring, he told me his best friends on the team are White and Tkachuk. White probably had some influence with Chabot, his roommate. Both will now have influence on Tkachuk.
Chabot was the NHL's 10th best scoring defenceman last season and still has to work on some of the defensive fundamentals of his game. I think the worst case scenario is that he's a long term, very good, top 4 defenceman. If he becomes that, then it's maybe a slight overpayment but not by a lot. 8 million will the going rate for a player like that soon enough. But if he becomes what most observers in Ottawa thinks he can, an elite NHL defenceman, then this deal is a home run for the Senators, deep to centre.
This was a signing that had to happen. Full credit to GM Pierre Dorion for keeping the deal reasonable and even embattled owner Eugene Melnyk deserves some praise as well for signing off on this. Fans have rightly complained about this guy for the gong show he's been running. They've continually lectured him on the things he needs to start doing as NHL owner. Well, when he starts listening and actually doing them, finally taking steps in the right direction, then all that needs to be encouraged.
I hope I can make it across the border. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.