Updated: Wednesday, 3:20 p.m. CDST
No other NHL team wants Zack Smith, or his salary, on their roster. The 10-year Ottawa veteran cleared waivers Wednesday and for now, he’s back with the Senators.
Smith has three years and $9.75 million left on his contract. That no team claimed a high-priced center who produced 19 points and went negative 32 in the plus/minus last year is not surprising. The Senators could send Smith to their AHL affiliate in Belleville, but that’s unlikely.
For now, its business as usual for Ottawa’s recycled veteran. The trip through the twilight zone of NHL waivers may motivate Smith. He gets an opportunity. Senators coach Guy Boucher said Smith will skate center between wingers Brady Tkachuk and Mark Stone in their next exhibition game against Chicago. “Smith is getting back to the position he had on Monday and that he had at the beginning of camp,” Boucher said.
-Update by NHL Managing Editor Roger Dier
Twenty months after signing Zack Smith to a four-year, $13 million contract, the Ottawa Senators placed Smith on waivers Tuesday.
The Senators (and Smith) learn Wednesday whether Smith is an Ottawa Senator or something else.
Smith, according to the Ottawa Sun, was shocked to learn Ottawa thought him dispensable.
Smith’s teammates felt the same.
“I’ll be honest, it’s a kick in the balls for us,” said Matt Duchene. “It’s tough because we love Smitty. He is a great leader, he is a great player.” Mark Stone knows change is in the Ottawa air. Still, he didn’t see this coming: “I have been saying it since April 7 last year. When you struggle there is change, I was obviously not expecting this one.”
“It caught me off guard and it caught Zack off guard,” his St. Louis-based agent Allain Roy of RSG Hockey told Canada’s Postmedia Network on Tuesday. “It’s the timing more than anything else but teams have gotten more strategic about timing for waivers and I assume that Pierre thought this was the right time to put him on waivers.
Why the Senators waived Smith is unknown, but in the least, the organization recognizes that it overpaid a player who performed poorly in the first year of his deal. Smith scored 19 points (5g, 14a) and finished minus 32 in plus/minus. According to CapFriendly.com, he has three years remaining on his contract, which expires in 2020-21, and carries a cap hit of $3.25 million per season.
There is a chance another NHL team may claim Smith off waivers from the Senators for no assets in return. If this happens, the Senators would be relieved of his contract; it also opens a roster spot on a club getting younger. Given their current blend of financial restraint and young players, Ottawa may want Smith gone.
There is the chance Smith clears waivers. If that happens, the Senators can ship Smith to their AHL affiliate, the Belleville Senators, or keep him in Ottawa. According to Brent Wallace of TSN, Senator’s head coach Guy Boucher has said if Smith clears, he’ll continue to center Mark Stone and Brady Tkachuk.
Drafted in the third round by the Senators in 2008, Smith, 30, scored 165 points in 542 games in his 10-year career. Smith is best known for his hard-nose play and leadership.
As the Senators become younger, veteran leadership on the team is becoming scarce. Since January 2018, the Senators have traded captain Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, Derick Brassard, and Mike Hoffman, and bought-out Alex Burrows. Smith has quickly found himself one of the few veterans remaining on the team.
That changed Tuesday. Today Smith meets his hockey future.
Check back at Full Press Coverage today for updates on this developing story.
Cover Photo Credit: NHL.com
Roger Dier contributed to this story.