The Ottawa Senators have officially removed Nikita Zaitsev from the COVID protocol, suggesting he is available for the team tonight against the San Jose Sharks. That leaves Drake Batherson as the only Senators player still in the protocol.
This is not the first time that Zaitsev has been cleared, as he came out of the protocol for just a few hours earlier in Ottawa’s battle with COVID. This time though, it seems likely that he’s out of the woods (at least for now) and can rejoin the lineup to help them try and turn things around.
Whether Zaitsev can actually do that is another story, since he’s been poor this season and has watched his ice time slashed to a career low. In fact, he was even made a healthy scratch earlier in the year, meaning even though he is now available, he may not necessarily go directly in for the team. Recently, Ottawa has given an opportunity to 21-year-old Lassi Thomson, who looks ready to help the group on a full-time basis after registering two points in four games. He’s not at all the same kind of defenseman as Zaitsev, but that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
Still, there’s reason for the team to commit to Zaitsev, given he has another two years on his expensive contract. If he can’t get his performance back to an acceptable level, his $4.5MM salary looks mighty expensive for a team that doesn’t have unlimited funds.