Ottawa Senators Expansion Draft Preview: Defenders

CALGARY, AB - MARCH 4: Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 4, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - MARCH 4: Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 4, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

This article will consider the options the Senators have on the back end and who they should protect. This is the second in a mini-series regarding the expansion draft for the Senators. The last article was looking at deciding which goalie the Senators should protect.

The Senators are likely going to decide to go the 7-3-1 route in the expansion draft, meaning they need to protect three defenders. The defenders that are eligible for the draft are Thomas Chabot, Victor Mete, Nikita Zaitsev, Josh Brown, and Cody Goloubef.

Thomas Chabot

First up is defencemen and franchise cornerstone, Thomas Chabot. Drafted 18th overall in 2015 by the Ottawa Senators, he is the number one defenceman on the team and looks to continue being that. He is currently an alternative captain and could be potentially chosen as captain for the team, so is a player that will for sure (and should) be protected by the Senators. He signed an eight-year extension that kicked in this season, showing that the team has faith in him. Relatively young at 24 means he’ll likely spend his prime years with the Senators. An exciting player to watch, using his skating abilities in order to create plays, such as this one:

As shown in the tweet below he has excellent offensive numbers, the best in the league among defensemen, despite going against tough competition and playing a lot. On the other hand, his defence is atrocious, among the worst in the league.

Victor Mete

Victor Mete was picked up via waivers from the Montreal Canadiens this past season. Drafted in the fourth round (100th overall) in 2016 and for some reason (maybe because of his smaller frame, standing at 5’7) couldn’t crack the Canadiens lineup this past season despite having lots of speed. This year with the Senators, he brought speed to the back end, something the team didn’t really have before. He jumped into the play quite often using his skating abilities to help transition the puck.

Another fairly young player at 23 years old means that he could potentially play for the Senators in the future as well. It would make sense for the team to protect him in the upcoming expansion draft in order to help the defensive core. In the future, there is a possibility that he could be a trade chip, as the left side on the back end could consist of Chabot, Erik Brannstrom, and Jake Sanderson. Mete’s underlying stats are pretty good, finishing first on the team in both xGF% and HDCF% (meaning a player who has a good impact offensively and defensively). If he can replicate or perhaps surpass his performance from this past season, his trade value could garner a return similar to or even better than what Mike Rielly was traded for.

Nikita Zaitsev

Nikita Zaitsev was traded to the Senators, in a trade that sent Cody Ceci to the Maple Leafs. Zaitsev played on the first pairing with Chabot for most of the season and played poorly. On the team, he finished fourth in terms of xGF%, eighth in CF%, and seventh in HDCF%. However, in his defense he did have the most difficult workload on the team, having to face elite competition over 50% of the time. When he faced weaker competition (gritensity players), his CF% was a bit over 50% (more on the Elite and Gritensity competition here).

As always, the team is looking to be competitive, and if they were to be that and to achieve that it would be preferable if Zaitsev played on the third pairing. This does not seem likely especially with his current contract, which stands at $4.5 million yearly. Moreover, this hefty contract is bound to expire in the summer of 2024-25, a season where the team should be a Stanley Cup contender –– especially with the way the team is progressing. The team should look to trade Zaitsev, which may be hard to do with his contract. But if he were to be unprotected, the Krakens could potentially select him.

Josh Brown

If the Senators were to go the 7-3-1 route and leave Zaitsev unprotected, it would mean the team would need to protect another defenceman. The last two defenders on the list are Josh Brown and Cody Goloubef. One didn’t play in the NHL last season while the other has some value that other teams may be interested in. The latter is Brown, a player who was traded to the Senators from the Panthers last off-season. He is 27 years old and mainly served as a depth defenceman, especially during the second half of the season. His cap hit is very affordable at $1.2 million and his contract is set to expire at the end of the 2021-22 season. His on-ice impact is decent as well. Although his CF% was lowest on the team this season, his xGF% was second on the team. Protecting Brown over Zaitsev would be ideal as Brown could play on the last pairing or serve as a depth defenceman. He could also be used as a trade chip to a team looking to make a run at the Stanley Cup. This is not only because of his affordable contract but also because of his on-ice impact and bigger frame, standing at 6’5, which teams look for.

Cody Goloubef

The last player on this list is Cody Goloubef and he is also the oldest being 31 years old. He is someone who did not play with the big club this past season and only played in the AHL. The Senators should not protect Goloubef as he is a player past his 30s in the AHL last season who most likely has next to no trade value and is unlikely to have much to offer to the team.


To conclude, the three defenders that the Senators should protect in the upcoming expansion draft are Chabot, Mete, and Brown. Chabot is a franchise cornerstone and one of the top offensive defenders in the league, so that is a no-brainer. Protecting Mete makes a lot of sense as he brings speed and skill to the back-end and has strong underlying numbers. Finally, protecting Brown over Zaitsev will help the team down the road. Brown is on a cheap deal and has a decent on-ice impact, making him a potential trade chip. On the other hand, the risk of keeping Zaitsev is that it will block up-and-coming young players, especially if he is not performing well.

Stats come from NaturalStatTrick and PuckIQ