The Ottawa Senators have some Labor Day news, announcing that Erik Brannstrom has agreed to a one-year, $900K contract. Brannstrom was a restricted free agent without arbitration eligibility. Senators general manager Pierre Dorion spoke about his young defenseman:
Erik is among our group of young players who we’re looking upon to take another step forward next season. He’s competitive, has an ability to efficiently move the puck and showed well when asked to take on an increased role last season. We’re hopeful that experience pays dividends for him in the year ahead.
As the main piece acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Mark Stone trade of 2019, Brannstrom was expected to become a legitimate difference-maker for the Senators’ defense. Instead, he has struggled to stay in the lineup while not showcasing the elite offensive skill that many believed he had. In 116 NHL games since the trade, he has just two goals and 31 points.
Still, as Dorion notes, Brannstrom did receive a bigger role last season when he averaged close to 20 minutes a night for his 53 appearances. That included a regular shift on the second powerplay unit and even some penalty kill time, as he tries to carve out a role for himself in Ottawa. Remember, this is a team that will now have Jake Sanderson in the mix, a player who is expected to immediately receive a good chunk of minutes on the back end.
If Brannstrom is going to ever reach his potential, this is the year to do it. With a contract of just $900K, he has the chance to provide incredible value for the team and set himself up to be a long-term piece. Travis Hamonic, Artem Zub, and Nick Holden are all scheduled for unrestricted free agency next summer. If he struggles again with his consistency, there will be other young defensemen pushing for his spot on the roster.
Still just barely 23 (his birthday was three days ago), there is still time for Brannstrom. But a one-year “prove it” deal means things haven’t gone according to plan – for either side – to this point. With a club that should be much improved, after some big offseason additions, finding his place in the pecking order and remaining indispensable will give him a chance at a much bigger contract next summer.