Jean Gabriel Pageau Signing A Steal For Ottawa


This afternoon the Ottawa Senators twitter account was trying to be suspenseful as possible. They sent these tweets back to back, which ramped up the speculation very quickly:

Nobody was expecting any signings soon, but many people were wondering if it was someone like UFA-to-be Erik Condra. I know I was hoping it would be either him or defenseman Chris Wideman. Instead, the team announced that they have re-signed RFA Jean-Gabriel Pageau to a two-year contract with a cap hit of $900,000.

When I saw the news I was a bit disappointed honestly, just because I wanted to see Condra and Wideman re-signed. Not that I don’t love Pageau, because I do, and this signing is exceptional for the team.

Once I saw the contract details I became very excited. $900,000 is an absolute steal for the Senators, as Pageau is clearly a solid third line centre now at the young age of 22 and has room to improve. Considering some of the other cap hits on Ottawa that are bottom six players, this contract looks ever better. David Legwand is making $3 million, Colin Greening $2.65 million, Chris Neil $1.9 million, and Zack Smith $1,887,500.

Pageau is better than all four of them, and he has the same cap hit as a first round pick on an entry-level deal.

Pageau had a bit of an up-and-down season, but it ended off on the right note. He played in Binghamton earlier in the year (whether deserved or not), but his play down there warranted another call up as he notched 21 points in 27 games. While under Paul MacLean he was moved around a lot and never really had a set role.

However, once Dave Cameron took over and some better lines were established, he was able to thrive:

Micah makes these very cool graphs for individual players, and you can see the effect certain players had on Pageau. In the first graph, you can see that early on he played with mostly Milan Michalek and Alex Chiasson (yellow and blue bars). But later in the season around the 55 game mark, he played almost exclusively with Curtis Lazar and Erik Condra (grey and red bars).

It’s no coincidence that once he was put on that line that his possession numbers spiked very high. The bottom two graphs illustrate his for and against shot rates, and it’s very clear that in the second half of his season his play vastly improved because he was paired with competent wingers. Not only did that line survive, they thrived.

He was certainly a big part of driving play on that line, and he can hold his own on Ottawa’s third line.

I don’t see why he can’t become a 40+ point player very soon

In 2014-15 he wasn’t amazing offensively, with 19 points in 50 games but he improved later in the season. In his last 18 games he put up 7 goals and 4 assists, showing that he’s capable of also producing a bit at the NHL level. I think there’s still room to improve his game offensively too, as in his draft year he had 79 points in 67 games in the QMJHL. I don’t see why he can’t become a 40+ point player very soon.

Even if you don’t think Pageau is that good, it’s hard to be mad at a contract that is this cheap. I thought he was for sure going to get at least $1.5 million, but I was happily surprised. I do wish the deal was a bit longer, but I know exactly why it happened.

As of now, Ottawa is strapped for cash. Both Murray and Pageau know that, and the team most likely approached Pageau about taking a bit of a pay cut. Of course he isn’t taking a massive pay cut, but he certainly isn’t getting paid a lot. Neither side wants to sign a one-year deal, but two years is still short enough.

Apr 24, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Ottawa Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) gets ready for a faceoff during the first period in game five of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously I think the team wants him to sign a longer term, but in order to do that they would have had to pay a bit more. So it looks like the solution was to give Pageau a two-year deal while the team still has some bad contracts on the books, and then after that he will get paid more on a new deal. It works out for both sides, because Pageau has a chance to prove himself for two seasons and he will almost assuredly get a better contract next time around.

In the meantime, Ottawa still has some contracts they need to get rid of. The good thing is most of them expire after this season or the next. Legwand, Greening, Neil, Smith, Milan Michalek, Chris Phillips, Eric Gryba, and Jared Cowen all have expiring contracts either in 2016 or 2017. Some of those players will be retained, but I’m sure most will go.

I think at that point the team will (hopefully) be more comfortable spending, and it would be a good time to give him more money. This two-year bridge contract works for both sides, even though Pageau isn’t getting paid much right now.

But I know how the Senators think, and it’s almost always about money. This contract was a steal, and for the next two seasons Ottawa will be reaping the reward of a cheap third line centre.

Next: Is Trading Down A Possibility For Ottawa?

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