Coming off an impressive 55-game NHL season, Zack Smith appears ready to take the next step in his career and really become an NHL player, rather than someone who splits time between the Ottawa Senators and their AHL affiliate. Although his offence was sparing (just 4G and 5A for Ottawa), his physical play was refreshing and towards the end of the season, he rarely went long without dropping the gloves and fared well in his fights. The combination of size, speed, decent hands, and a willingness to play in the 'dirty areas' of the rink will make him a valuable third- or fourth-line player for the Senators this season. But as a restricted free agent, what kind of salary should we expect Z. Smith to command?
#15 / Centre / Ottawa Senators
April 5, 1989
Cap hit: RFA
|2010 - Zack Smith||55||4||5||9||-11||120||0||0||0||0||78|
Contract status: Z. Smith is a restricted free agent. He is coming off an entry-level contract which was worth an NHL salary of $550k (plus bonuses).
Season in review: After a good debut last season which included appearances in all six playoff games, it looked like Z. Smith might be a walk-on to the Ottawa lineup this year. He wasn't, but he was recalled after little time in the AHL to step back up to the NHL. He went up and down a couple times this year, but finished the season with in Ottawa. He had nine points on an offensively starved Senators team while playing limited minutes, and most were due to a willingness to crash the net. That's what he'll have to continue doing to have success in the NHL.
Comparable players: In looking for players to compare with Z. Smith, I tried to look at young players, but they had to be ones who were past their entry-level contracts. All must be physical, with some limited offensive skills, and an ability to get under the skin of opponents. I came up with a range of three potential comparables...
#13 / Left Wing / Philadelphia Flyers
Jan 28, 1985
Cap hit: RFA
|2010 - Dan Carcillo||57||4||2||6||-14||127||0||0||2||56|
A comparison to Dan Carcillo is a generous one for Z. Smith. Carcillo has more offence in his game (or at least he did in his final season with the Phoenix Coyotes, when he posted 24P in 57GP), and he's got an advantage in feistiness ove Z. Smith. Looking back at Carcillo's career-best season, it happened when Carcillo was the same age as Z. Smith currently is, and earned Carcillo a two-year contract with a cap hit of just over $893k per year. If Z. Smith signs a two-year deal, it's unlikely it would be much more than Carcillo's was.
#16 / Right Wing / Minnesota Wild
Jul 28, 1984
Cap hit: $575k, one more year
|2010 - Brad Staubitz||71||4||5||9||-5||173||0||0||1||29|
Near the bottom range of Z. Smith's potential payout is likely Brad Staubitz of the Minnesota Wild. Although Z. Smith has a slight advantage over Staubitz both offensively and physically, he doesn't have nearly as much experience. Still, Z. Smith will likely look at the $575k cap hit Staubitz earned last season and will earn next as a baseline to begin negotiations.
#11 / Centre / New Jersey Devils
Feb 15, 1979
Cap hit: UFA
|2010 - Adam Mair||65||1||3||4||-16||45||0||0||0||58|
Although Adam Mair is just coming off a bargain-basement contract (he'll be an UFA after this season), his previous contract was likely a good comparable as a mid-range length deal for Z. Smith: Three years, with a cap hit of just over $758k per season. Mair had a lot more experience under his belt when that contract was signed, but it's still a pretty good base for comparison. And yes, Mair is can't fight like Z. Smith can, but Z. Smith doesn't put up points (or hasn't been putting up points) as regularly as Mair had.
Zack Smith will certainly get a raise from the $550k salary he's made the first three years of his career. The amount of that raise remains to be seen, but it seems likely that whatever his next contract is will be a one-way NHL deal. I'd wager it will be more than Staubitz is earning, but likely less than Mair; Z. Smith will likely come in somewhere in the middle, around $600-650k on a three-year contract.