This afternoon the Senators announced that they have re-signed Zack Smith to a four-year extension that carries an average annual value of $1.887 million.
And it feels like an overpay.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Smith.
Of all the Binghamton graduates that came up from that 2011 Calder Cup winning team and became full-time regulars, I feel like he has the most upside out of any of them.
That blend of a physical, agitating style with some modest offensive production, is sure to ingratiate him to the blue collar masses (if it hasn’t already) who cry foul every time that Jason Spezza turns the puck over in the offensive zone.
“Dump and chase! Grit! Heart! Hustle! Fight! Give that Matt Carkner a blank check!”
(You get the idea.)
Getting back to Smith though, he’s a decent bottom six forward, but I don’t believe that he has entrenched himself as the team’s third line center. And certainly falls short of a projection to one day be "the best third-line center in the league" as Shean Donovan opined last season.
On the surface, that line of: 14 goals; 26 points; +4; 98 PIMS; and 168 hits looks pretty good but remember, this is a player who has only really had two productive months in the NHL. It also bears repeating that while he's a fresh young face in Ottawa, Smith actually turned 24 in April.
It was during the months of November and December last season when Smith scored on 10 of his 50 shots – good for a ridiculously inflated 20-percent shooting percentage – that led fans to believe that the Sens could have a poor man’s Mike Fisher on their hands; extrapolating this production and projecting a potential 40-point player.
Eventually, much like one of Fisher’s hot streaks, Smith regressed to the mean and put up numbers similar to his career rates. But, I can’t shake this nagging feeling that it was this 27 game stretch that management has romanticized. I mean, if we’re going to use small sample sizes to get some read of Smith, his last 20 regular season games left something to be desired. To put things in perspective, he was a player who had difficulty separating himself from the team’s other bottom six center, Jim O’Brien:
|Name||Zack Smith||Jim O'Brien|
If you watched Smith down the stretch, you will know that he faded badly.
Granted, he could of been playing with some undisclosed injury or he could have simply hit the wall after coming off a long AHL championship season. It's hockey, it happens.
Maybe he'll enter the 2012/13 season rejuvenated after a lengthy offseason that can possibly be extended further by a potential lockout or maybe he won't.
The truth is, to this point, I'm not sure anyone really knows what Smith is: Is he a good third line center? Will he eventually have to move to the wing? Can he take on top-six opposition and keep his head above water? Will the consistency issues always be there? How will internal competition from the likes of Regin, O'Brien and potentially even Zibanejad (should he stick at center) affect Smith's spot?
They're all fair questions to ask.
It's worth mentioning that like the Kyle Turris contract extension, Smith's deal feels as though the organization is paying him based on potential as opposed to past production. But at least in Turris' case, you know he's cemented as the team's second line center alongside skilled players like Alfie.
So even though that $1.887 per season term may not be a hefty price tag relative to some of the other deals that are out there, if Smith cannot play at a more consistent level, it's going to leave fans hoping that this isn’t one of those Bryan Murray fugue state management decisions that leaves us shaking our heads and bemoaning the effects of Smith’s contract on the team’s payroll allocation. The fact that the Senators cap situation is pretty healthy currently helps to make a move like this a little more palatable.
@6thSens gotta disagree on this 1. Aside from the rest he's a great compliment to Neil and frees #25 from some of the fighter duties to play
Why does every 6th Sens article starts with an admission that you think Sens fans are sort of the worst? Especially since you follow with completely legit analysis of the numbers. If you just dropped that first part, you'd have a much less obnoxious read. That you're willing to do the analysis is all the validation you need, but so consistently setting up your perspective against the stupidity of the masses and the media is sort of dickish. I'm saying this as a fan of the site, btw.
I like the Smith contract for different reasons than the Turris one. From a numbers standpoint, his numbers may compare to someone like Chris Kelly who was making around 2m/yr in Ottawa. The value for Ottawa comes in his chippy play - the hits, the fights, the forechecking and the agitating. If you look at it that way, his value was probably established by Chris Neil's contract (and by Chris Neil's brief dance as a UFA).
What I like most about the contract is the message it sends to NHL ready prospects on ELC's: If you play tough, stand up for teammates, train hard and sacrifice your body, the Sens will reward you with financial security (or trade you to a team that needs to overpay you). Hopefully this will resonate with skilled players too - Ottawa would be a much harder team to play against.
@TheSilverSeven @6thSens I agree with both of you.. Lol I like the player and the price tag, but term seems a bit too long.
@Wham_City This brings up another wrinkle I didn't think about. Most young players who have inconsistent RFA years ask for 1-2 year deals with the expectation they will have more negotiating leverage with more consistency. A four year deal from Ottawa tells me they thought Smith would be play a bigger role and improve consistency. Having a young gritty forward with some skill is also a pretty valuable trade asset - especially with a long contract if trading to a team like Columbus that can't attract FA
Lucas Sbias would be one. Signed a 4-year 8.7M$ extension after putting up 18 points in 115 games.
D-man though, and he was 21 at the time.
@percussivepiano I don't think think Sens fans are the worst. I think there insufferable/instant gratification demanding fans in every fan base who are the worst.
Don't worry though percussivepiano, I'm not a dick in real life. I just play one on the internet.
Agree, though Smith’s production was totally odd last season I think his contract has little to do with numbers but for what it’s worth, his goal total still was comparable to Chris Kelly’s Sens career best of 15. The org needs a guy who can fight, agitate AND play. With Neil entering his mozzarella years they needed to plan ahead. All this ‘now that Smith is locked up at 3rd line centre, how does effect Zibanejad?’ stiff i keep coming across is totally weird to me. Sure, maybe Ziba plays but if he shines at centre, the coach says, “Smith move to the wing” and Smith says, “You got it skip.” Kind of a non-issue if you ask me. As for the term, it is long for sure but if he can put up 10 and keeps playing a tough game should the Sens ever feel the need to trade him I think they will be able to do so with relative ease, especially at deadline time with his 1.88 cap hit.
@TravisHeHateMe Think he has a better shot/finishing ability than Condra and more opportunity to play special teams & put up points.
@thejpiga @6thsens with eons of cap space not a big deal. Plus Murray has said he will not be signing anyone else this year so burn 1 yr
@thejpiga every year we could sign someone, another big contract is done. Gonchar, Alfie, Phillips, spezza, etc
@thejpiga don't foresee our prospects being 7-8mil players. Lot of 3-4mil'ers maybe but no superstars in the system. We'll be fine for years
@TheSilverSeven I would like to assume that we’ll either sign other “stars” or guys like Zib and Silvferberg will be deserving of that cash
@thejpiga next yr gonchar 5.5mil gone. Alfies 4mil+ gone. Yr after that Phillips 3.5 gone...don't see it will be a prob
@TheSilverSeven tons of cap space now, agree just worried about the potential for a buyout in 2-3 years (depending on new CBA penalties)