February 28, 2012; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen (2) talks with defenseman Filip Kuba (17) during the third period against the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. The Ottawa Senators won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Senators, Cowen agree to new contract

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Ottawa Senators signed Jared Cowen to a four-year, $12.4 million contract ($3.1 M cap hit) on Saturday, taking a big step in solidifying their defence going forward by keeping him in the Canadian capital through the 2016-17 season.

The 6’5″, 230-pound Cowen went ninth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, though he didn’t crack the Ottawa lineup as a regular until the 2011-12 season, where he played all 82 games while tallying 17 points.

He spent the majority of last season out with a torn labrum in his hip, only playing seven regular-season games and scoring one goal, to go with three assists in Ottawa’s 10-game playoff run.

From a financial perspective, Cowen’s contract puts him in the company of Toronto’s Carl Gunnarsson ($3.15 million), New Jersey Devils captain Bryce Salvador ($3,166,667), and Ottawa teammates Chris Phillips ($3,083,333) and Marc Methot ($3 million). (Source: CapGeek)

The deal is for a lower number and shorter term than the eight-year, $28 million proposal Ottawa made to Cowen back in August, though I think the shorter contract benefits both parties.

In this case, four years is an ideal number because it gives Cowen more certainty than the recent trend of RFA bridge contracts, though he’ll remain motivated to play well ahead of the next round of contract discussions as he’ll still have limited control as a restricted free agent after the 2016-17 season. While the number may seem a bit high now, I think Cowen will develop into a bargain at that number when the deal is done.

The move also gives Ottawa a young, defensive-minded defender at an affordable number for years to come, which is important for a couple reasons. First, it gives more balance to the future on the blue line as Ottawa’s other young defenders, Erik Karlsson and Patrick Wiercioch, play the game with a more offensive mindset.

Also, Phillips isn’t getting any younger, so getting the Allan, Sask., native back in the fold is important because, while the Sens defence will unquestionably be built around Karlsson, they will rely on Cowen to become a rangy, stay-at-home defender who can play in all situations, including a penalty kill that’s ranked in the NHL’s top 10 in three of the past four seasons, including the top kill rate last season at 88 per cent.

Finally, it gives the Senators added cap flexibility to help get pending UFAs Phillips and Milan Michalek, along with RFA Robin Lehner re-signed. Meanwhile, Bobby Ryan (UFA) and Mika Zibanejad (RFA) are due for extensions after 2015, so having future flexibility is key, and Cowen’s contract certainly helps.

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