Jake Sanderson Signs Eight-Year Extension: Initial Thoughts + Why Ottawa Made the Right Decision By Committing Early

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(Photo by André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators have officially completed their rebuild.

The Senators, who initiated their franchise reconstruction in 2018, signed Jake Sanderson to an eight-year contract worth $8.05 million annually on Wednesday. Sanderson was the final remaining member of Ottawa’s core to require a contract extension. Like every other core component, Sanderson committed to the club’s long-term goal of winning the Stanley Cup.

Sanderson finished his rookie season with 4 goals and 32 points through 77 games played. His average ice-time of 21:55 ranked second on the Senators, while his 3:16 on the penalty kill ranked first. Ottawa’s reliance on Sanderson increased down the stretch. Over the final 16 games, he averaged an ice-time of 25:18 while producing 7 points. Sanderson’s offensive game began to compliment an already-excellent defensive game more as the season progressed.

At just 21-years-old, versatility is what separates Sanderson from other young defenders. He served a shut-down role alongside a depth partner in Travis Hamonic before flourishing in a first pairing role with responsibilities on both special team units later in the season. These duties, all while matching up against the league’s best players, made Sanderson a candidate for ‘Most Valuable Player’ on the Senators.

Ottawa took a bet on Sanderson by signing him to a contract worth $64.4 million. Despite his impressive rookie season, it’s fair to feel uneasy about the club dishing out this much money to an inexperienced player. Pierre Dorion bet on Tim Stützle last summer, however, and that bet likely saved the franchise tens of millions of dollars during their contention window.

Using Stützle as a comparable is complimented by the league’s rising salary cap, which is expected to jump by $10 million plus over the next few years. $8 million today will hold far less value three years from now. Signing Sanderson this summer- his deal won’t begin until 2024-25- likely saved the Senators several million dollars due to the rising salary cap. Everyone will be worth more.

Sanderson has always been touted as a smart, competitive athlete. He falls into the ‘student of the game’ category; meaning that he is always one step ahead of everyone else on the ice. This allows him to minimize mistakes while capitalizing upon opposing errors. Sanderson’s confidence only began to boast near the end of his rookie season; he could emerge as the team’s true number one defenseman come next summer.

People will state that Sanderson is worth less than his contract value. While concerns over inexperience are valid, it is illogical to deny Sanderson’s trajectory based on his rookie season. Anyone who watched him play on a consistent basis will tell you the same thing: Jake Sanderson does it all, and he does it damn well.

Ottawa lacked stability prior to Sanderson’s arrival. He now forms a three-headed monster alongside Thomas Chabot and Jakob Chychrun. This should be the best trio of defenseman in the NHL. Buckle up, Sens fans.

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