Last year, there seemed to be two main schools of thought about Zack Smith: those who wanted to keep him as an inexpensive top-six fill-in who could contribute goals, and those who wanted to trade him while his value was at its highest. Both sides had merit, since yes, Smith was scoring on a much higher percentage of shots than his career average, but he was also playing with much better linemates. He also only had one year left on his contract, but even with a 25-goal season, he likely wouldn’t be able to bring back much in a trade. Fast forward to this season, and he hasn’t looked out of place filling in for the concussed Clarke MacArthur in the top six, and has put up three points in four games. It’s probably been fortunate for the Sens that he’s still around, because he does seem to be the most capable stop-gap on the second line.
Now it is very early in the season, but it’s never too early to start talking pending UFAs. Z Smith will be a UFA at the season’s end, and as such the Sens will have to think hard about retaining him. You can’t win a Stanley Cup without depth, but you also don’t win a Stanley Cup by overpaying to retain depth players. This season he finishes up a four-year contract that paid him just under $1.9M per season. I think we can all agree that if he wants to come back at the same salary, the Sens would take him. Any raise due Jean-Gabriel Pageau will be offset by the (presumptive) retirement of Chris Neil, so I don’t think paying Smith $2M will hurt the Sens in any way. The question becomes if he wants more than that.
Using Corsica’s similarity calculator, a couple names seem intriguing. One is Clarke MacArthur from 2008-09. MacA turned that season into a whopping $1.4M contract with the Maple Leafs. However, a couple years later, MacArthur started pulling $3.25M, first with the Leafs, then the Sens. However, Smith is 28, while MacArthur was 24 in that comparable season. Another similarity comes from Nino Niederreiter in 2014-15, who is currently making $2.67M per season. Personally, I think if the Sens can get Smith under $3M, they should still go for it, at least short term. The problem comes if Smith starts arguing about having scored 25 goals last season. That puts him with guys like Vincent Trocheck (six-year, $4.75M extension this summer) and Andrew Ladd (seven-year, $5.5M). Again, I think we can all agree that Smith isn’t worth $5M per year. But is he worth $4M? $3.5M? Reminder, that’s what Kyle Turris is currently making on the NHL’s best bargain contract.
Of course the other thing to consider is term. At the end of this season, the Sens only have to worry about Pageau, and then a clump of other RFAs (Puempel, Dzingel, McCormick, possibly Varone). But on a two-year contract, Smith starts to interfere with the negotiations of Stone, Turris, Ceci, Wideman, Anderson, and Hammond. One season past that, and Erik Karlsson’s deal is up. So maybe a one-year deal is most worth it to the team.
Of course, it’s way too early for speculation like this. But where would we be as Sens fans without needlessly obsessing about things far too early?
- Trevor has been impressed by the Sens’ bottom-six forwards so far (including Smith!) [Silver Seven]
- Chirp looks at the high-energy practice the Sens had in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Lightning [Sens Chirp]
- The first episode of the Sens Callups podcast since hockey re-started is now up [Sens Callups]
- Three broken legs in two years had doctors worried about bone cancer for Chris Kelly - thankfully, it was just bad luck [Ottawa Citizen]
- Hoffman has no goals in his first four games! Everybody panic! [Ottawa Citizen]
- Bonk’s Mullet is setting up a season-long photoshop battle between Capital Gains and Matty Go Sens. Make sure to get suggestions in, and then vote in the inaugural battle on Halloween! [Bonk’s Mullet]
- Huh, funny how no games since the last Nuggets means almost nothing to link...
- A brilliant piece of satire, about NHL.com shutting down after its founders were hired by NHL teams [Lighthouse Hockey]
- The hockey world really loved this picture of the best beards in hockey walking around Pittsburgh [Fear the Fin]
- The Leafs are still getting sub-par goaltending, despite paying a lot to upgrade the position over the summer [TSN]
- And some guy named Jaromir Jagr scored his 750th career goal, becoming just the third player ever to hit that mark. Imagine if he hadn’t gone to the KHL. [NHL]