One of the most underrated parts of the Ottawa Senators rebuild might be the acquisition of Artem Zub, an undrafted defenseman out of the KHL. After signing in 2020, Zub has become one of the team’s most reliable players at any position, even at times ahead of Thomas Chabot (at least in the defensive end).
Zub effectively shuts down rushes with an active stick, engages physically in front of his own net, and quietly logs huge minutes in tough situations for the Senators. He is averaging 22 minutes a night through six games this season, minutes that unfortunately are going to have to be spread out for the next little while. Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia reports that Zub will miss one to two weeks with an upper-body injury. Chabot, who was also missing today, is okay and will be ready tomorrow.
After winning four in a row, the Senators were thrashed by the Minnesota Wild last night, outshot 40-29 in a 4-2 loss. Notably, Zub played nearly ten minutes more than fellow Russian right-hander Nikita Zaitsev, who may be forced to take on a bigger role in his absence. Zaitsev’s game has fallen off a cliff in recent years, and can’t stay in the lineup, let alone live up to the $4.5MM cap hit he carries.
The team also could look elsewhere to fill those minutes. The Carolina Hurricanes are speaking with multiple teams on Ethan Bear, according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, and the Senators do have some young options like Jacob Bernard-Docker and Lassi Thomson.
One week would mean missing three games, while two would be at least six for the injured Zub. That short timeline isn’t the end of the world, but things in Ottawa do seem to be perched precariously this season, with the difference between contending for the playoffs and contending for a lottery pick not that large. Hopefully, for their sake, the underrated defenseman will be back as soon as possible.