Sanderson, who was named to the NHL All-Rookie team in June, was entering the final year of his entry-level contract. The 21-year-old, who was the fifth pick of the 2020 NHL draft, left the University of North Dakota after his sophomore season and became one of the Senators' more consistent players in his rookie campaign this past season.
Sanderson finished with four goals and 32 points in 77 games and parlayed his two-way potential into showing he could be trusted in multiple situations. He was second on the team in average ice time at 21:55 per contest behind alternate captain and defenseman Thomas Chabot.
His impact was felt throughout the lineup, as he led the team in short-handed ice time at 252:36, according to Natural Stat Trick. He also was second on the team in 5-on-5 minutes and was second among defensemen in power-play ice time, with Chabot being first.
Signing Sanderson to an eight-year deal makes the Senators the latest franchise to sign a young defenseman to a long-term contract at a time when such players are changing the NHL landscape.
More significant, however, is that the deal is another step in securing what the Senators deem to be a bright future. Teams such as the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning built through the draft to win their Stanley Cups, and more teams are following the formula in the hope of finding similar results.
The Senators have worked to stockpile talent through the draft, selecting and then developing players such as Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Drake Batherson, Shane Pinto, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Chabot and Sanderson.
Batherson, Chabot, Norris, Tkachuk and now Sanderson are signed to long-term contracts ahead of what has a chance to be an important season for the Senators. They had used the 2022 offseason to sign Claude Giroux and create belief that they could snap their playoff drought and reach the postseason for the first time in five seasons.
However, injuries and inconsistencies ultimately saw them miss the playoffs again, as they finished six points out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Since then, they have signed Joonas Korpisalo and Vladimir Tarasenko in free agency and added Dominik Kubalik in the Alex DeBrincat trade to further heighten the expectations that they could challenge for a playoff spot in what's expected to be a demanding Eastern Conference.