Pageau’s impressive playoff comes with payoff, and new deal is great for Senators

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and the Senators avoided arbitration by coming to terms on a three-year, $9.3-million deal, and it could turn into a signing with great value if Pageau continues to develop as he has.

When Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s name appeared on the list of off-season arbitration filings, there was reason to wonder if the 24-year-old to put pen to paper on a new deal with the Ottawa Senators before the two sides had completed the late-July hearing. Chief among them was Pageau’s recent playoff performance.

During the Senators’ near-unthinkable run to the Eastern Conference final, Pageau was impressive. Skating in all 19 playoff games, Pageau took on top six minutes, put up eight goals and 10 points and was tough to out-duel on the dot. And arguably no single skater had a night better than Pageau’s outing on April 29. That evening, in Game 2 of the second-round series against the New York Rangers, Pageau couldn’t miss. Literally. He scored not once, not twice and didn’t even stop at the hat trick. Pageau notched four goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime, on four shots, giving Ottawa an 2-0 lead in a series some believed was New York’s to lose.

But Pageau and the Senators won’t be needing arbitration as the two sides have come to terms on a new deal. It was reported Monday by ArizonaSports’ Craig Morgan that Pageau has inked a three-year, $9.3-million contract, which represents a nice raise for Pageau, who has more than tripled his average annual salary from $900,000 to $3.1 million. But it’s not a sum that should have anyone in Ottawa all that worried. In fact, it should be a deal that leaves Senators faithful quite pleased.

Over the past three seasons, Pageau has grown into an effective middle-six center and a steadily productive scorer. Since cracking the lineup full-time in 2014-15, Pageau has notched 41 goals, 95 points and scored at a .44 points per game rate while averaging nearly 16 minutes per game. Those may not be superstar totals, but they’re solid, nevertheless, and with the way he has developed over the past few seasons, the Pageau deal is excellent. That’s especially true when considering Pageau’s contributions go beyond the scoresheet.

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It doesn’t get the same press as the four-goal night or the prior playoff hat trick, but Pageau has been a contender, no matter how outside, for the Selke Trophy in each of the past two seasons. In 2015-16, Pageau earned a first-place vote for the award, as well as two third-, one fourth- and two fifth-place nods. This past season, Pageau had five fifth-place votes, as well as one for third- and fourth-place. And he’s not just stumbling into those blindly.

In the faceoff dot, Pageau has continuously improved, going from 49.3 percent in his first full season to a 54.8 percent success rate this past season. He’s also blocking shots with regularity, taking a heavy — and we’re talking near 60 percent — slant of defensive-zone starts and faced a higher quality of competition at 5-on-5 than any other Senators player this past season. None of this is to mention that Pageau saw more penalty killing time than any other Senators forward and the 14th-most of all forwards in the league.

The Senators are generally savvy with their spending, trying to make a dollar go as far or further than any other team in the league, and with Erik Karlsson’s contract up in two short seasons, that’s exactly what Ottawa needs to continue doing. And locking up Pageau, who continues to develop into an underrated and reliable player, for three years at a cut rate is an excellent piece of business.

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