With the Sens off this week, it gives us a little more time to look at some other topics. Today, we kick off a five-part series looking at the players most likely to be moved at the trade deadline. We start things off with a look at Zack Smith.
Zack Smith played his first game for the Ottawa Senators back in 2008, and at 583 games for the franchise, he’s the longest-tenured active player on the Sens. On the one hand, that kind of experience is the sort of thing you think you’d like to have on a young team like the current Sens. On the other hand, his cap hit is $3.25M for two more seasons after this, and for a cash-strapped team, the Sens can’t really afford to overpay for experience. He has 19 points in 41 games, and has played primarily on the third or fourth line with some time on the penalty kill.
Trading Smith seems like it might be hard. After all, he was waived way back in September, and wasn’t claimed. Most teams won’t give up an asset for a player they weren’t willing to take for free. That being said, teams may now be looking for a player of Smith’s ilk. All teams enter the season optimistic, but now teams realize they might need another piece. Teams are often looking for specific players around the trade deadline, and Smith checks all the boxes: veteran, centre, grit, penalty-killing ability, not to mention he’s playing at nearly 0.5 points per game. And in a trade, the Sens would be allowed to retain salary, which they’ve shown in the case of Dion Phaneuf they’re willing to do to save money overall.
Now what could the Sens get back? One option is draft picks. Last season, Patrick Maroon and his 30 points in 57 games (many of which came on Connor McDavid’s wing) earned a 2019 3rd-round pick and longhost prospect J.D. Dudek. Tomas Plekanec, who was older and more washed (18 points in 60 games at the deadline) than Smith brought back a 2nd-round pick, and a once-hyped prospect in Kerby Rychel.
So there’s definitely a market. Obviously, the problem with Smith is that he has two more years left after this one, and the trades listed above were pure rentals. Teams might be wary acquiring a gritty veteran presence for a playoff run and then two more seasons. I did mention salary retention above, but what the Sens might be even more interested in is acquiring deadweight salary à la Marian Gaborik. This could help teams with the cap hit, and wouldn’t cost Melnyk a nickel.
So who might be interested in Z. Smith? The Jets are reportedly looking at Derrick Brassard, but they may decide he’s done or too expensive, and look for a cheaper third-line centre option. He seems like the perfect fit for the Calgary Flames who could use an upgrade for their fourth line, but they may be worried about his salary with Matthew Tkachuk and David Rittich needing hefty raises for next year. The Oilers are of course always mentioned, since there’s a possibility they could make a bad trade at any second, even with Peter Chiarelli fired. Non-Canadian teams may also be interested, including the Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, and Columbus Blue Jackets, all of whom could use an upgrade in their bottom six. This list assumes Dorion will follow his usual trend of not trending good players within the division.
So if Smith is traded, I imagine the Sens will get about a 3rd-round pick and a not-as-bad contract in return, or the Sens will retain about a million dollars. For this reason, my gut is that the Sens will wait a year, and trade him next year when they won’t have to retain salary or take on a bad contract, because most teams can stomach one more year. But there’s still a possibility, and with this team looking to shed salary, Dorion may move on from the guy he’s already waived this season.
What will happen to Zack Smith at the deadline?
|Sens trade him
|Sens keep him