The Ottawa Senators have today announced that defenceman Artem Zub has agreed to a new two-year contract with the organisation.
Just over a year ago the former gold medallist at the 2018 Olympics made what some might call a slightly surprising choice to sign with the Ottawa Senators over other NHL clubs. Coming off a strong season in the KHL, the right shooting defenseman saw an opportunity to slide into a defensive group that needed upgrading.
Hailing from Khabarovsk, Russia, host of the 2015 World Bandy Championships, Artem Zub was primarily seen as a safe, steadfast defensive-first rear-guard, but the then-24-year-old was coming off a 13 goal campaign in the KHL.
Then the Senators signed Ottawa-native Erik Gudbranson and traded for Josh Brown, both themselves right-shooting defenseman, essentially blocking his initial opportunity with the team.
After starting the season in the press box, Zub proceeded to slot in as a second pairing defenseman providing steady play and the occasional mistake that rookie defensemen are known to make. He also provided some of that offensive spark when he scored his first ever NHL goal on a breakaway deke against rival Toronto that sure raised eyebrows, and maybe some expectations for next year.
Zub missed some of the 2-12-1 start when Ottawa was getting caved in, but his final stat line as a + 4 (an admittingly flawed stat, yes) is still impressive in 47 games played considering Nikita Zaitsev was a -13 and Thomas Chabot a -15.
The play of Zub allowed him to supplant Josh Brown and for the Senators to part with Gudbranson as the team finally moved towards sound puck movers over physical plodders.
With Zub at a $2.5 million AAV, he is now the third-highest paid defenseman on the team, and could enter next season at that same position unless Ottawa makes a run at David Savard, Adam Larsson, or Tyson Barrie to name a few of the free agent right shooting defenseman Ottawa could target.
With Chabot, Erik Brannstrom, and likely bringing back Victor Mete, the defense is mostly set, especially when you factor in Jake Sanderson when he finishes his NCAA season next year.
Zub will now call Ottawa home for at least 2 years. With him in the fold, and Zaistev still around, it looks like Jacob Bernard-Docker will slot in as the other RD, unless the staff prefers he spend next year in Belleville.
Barring another free agent signing on the right side, Zub will compete with fellow countryman Zaitsev on a top pair with Thomas Chabot, but I would imagine the team would ideally leave Zub on the second pairing, and at worst on the third.
The cliché is that now Zub is going to be here for a while he should buy himself a house, to which I would say: “At these prices?!”