Bryan Murray bolts upright in bed in the middle of the night in sweat soaked pajamas, “I must give the bloggers something to talk about. I must sign another highly debatable contract!” And you KNOW he wears those weird suit pajamas. Anyway, thank you Bryan for the conversational items this summer. You know though, I think we’re kind of good now homie. You don’t need to preemptively sign each and every Ben Bishop to 4 years. It’s alright if you just cool out and wait and see on a couple of these guys…
Okay so the big thing with this deal is that it addresses a team need. With Konopka and Carkner both gone the team lacked a tough presence and aside from Darren Kramer, I don’t think Ottawa has much coming down the pike (Varada taught me that saying!) in the way of Zack Smith type guys. It would seem the farm system has truly entered its Shane Prince type guy years. What I mean by that is the vast majority of prospects in the pool are of the “top 6 or bust” variety. Sure there are a couple of big strapping dudes like Ben Blood kicking around but speaking frankly, he was drafted in 2007 and Blood probably would have made the team by now if he was going to. Nearly all the teams in the North East got tougher and I don’t think Ottawa can much afford to wait around for another Matt Carkner to emerge. Speaking of which, even though the heavyweight toughness of Carkner will be missed it’s pretty good to see that a defensive defenseman wont constantly be sitting in the penalty box serving fighting majors.
There’s been some ballyhoo so far surrounding Smith’s lack of NHL points but to base the dollar value of all contracts on points is pretty narrow minded. So is discounting the value of a guy who can punch someone’s lights out if need be *gets pelted with internet tomatoes*. I know the NHL doesn’t have room for straight up goons like it used to (WHICH IS FINE!) but to think we’re in a post-enforcer world is ignorant of Dan Carcillo/Steve Downie/Brandon Prust type guys all over the league and more specifically in our division. Isn’t that right Sideshow Patrick Kaleta?
We all want Erik Karlsson to be happy and healthy and productive going forward and anyone who watched the Sens latest playoff series knows deep down that people are going to try and stop this through physical force and intimidation. And if anyone thinks the threat of penalties and suspensions is going to stop that…what am I talking about? OH RIGHT, Zack Smith’s contract. What I’m saying is Smith is clearly not just a fighter he, like Chris Neil, is a player that can fight and this is how your tough guys have to be in 2012. Points wise, Smith’s 14 goals last season is only one short of Chris Kelly’s career high as a Senator and Chris Kelly was awesome. He has the capacity to stick up for his teammates should the need arise but he’s not going to sit in the press box until the Bruins come to town. I like that balance.
The biggest gamble here is this: Betting that Smith’s nearly complete drop off in production (12 goals in first half of the season, 2 in the second) was definitely attributed to overplay between Binghamton and Ottawa. He reproduces or bests he’s a great deal. He drops off, ehhhhhhh he still doesn’t really make all that much and still protects our wee ones. Like Varada said in a recent post (I don’t know which one I don’t read this thing, blech) I don’t really care if Eugene pays 1.88MM for a player or 600K so long as they deserve their spot in the lineup. The trick here is that it would seem is that Smith is now expected to perform his role consistently into his late 20s.
To be perfectly honest, contracts like this make me feel like I know bupkis about building and managing a hockey team (THANKS FOR READING!). A four year term for a guy like Z Smith shows there is some kind of intricate strategy at work here. My best guess is it’s The Euge saying, “Murray, make the core of this team as high quality as you can manage and make it as cheap as possible going forward.” If the Sens are to be a team operating on the cheap while avoiding being the New York Islanders, I suppose a gamble or two is in order…that doesn’t mean I get why they gave him four years though.
The funniest thing I read so far was that the deal maybe had too much $$$ mustard on it and could potentially block the future acquisition of a missing piece. Even with additional signings the Sens could still potentially through around Shea Weber money if they wanted too. With the Sens hovering at the cap floor I sincerely doubt Smith’s contract would ever get in the way of a big deal getting done and even it did a guy who can actually play AND fight will always find a home in a trade and at 1.88MM. In the event of complete failure what would a buyout on that contract look like? A drop in the bucket as far as buyouts go.
I’ll just start by saying that when you consider $3MM a year / 4 year deal Boston gave Chris Kelly, well, this doesn’t look too bad. And we are basically talking about the same player here, with a few minor adjustments: third line centers who play the penalty kill and can occasionally chip in with a goal. Those players are valuable, and that Smith agitates (I don’t think he really “enforces” all that much) is a plus. So it’s impossible for me to get mad about the money. Also, refer to my rambling and not-very-coherent post from a few days ago about how I really couldn’t give a shit if Eugene Melnyk is paying $500k more than he needs to for his third line center if the team is going to be $18MM below the cap. What should it be? $1.3MM, $1.4MM? How many season ticket packages have been sold so far? Who cares.
As always, it’s the term that’s just totally weird. If I had the gumption and I wasn’t writing this post in the middle of a Powerpoint presentation I’m delivering to my organization’s board of directors, I’d look up some great posts from James Mirtle on just how replaceable bottom six forwards are. I don’t want to underestimate how hard it is to draft and develop an NHL player–any NHL player–but look at the UFA market. I’m pretty sure you can find a bottom six center who can also play on the penalty kill, especially if you’re willing to pay $1.88MM for him. Also: Ottawa’s penalty kill wasn’t even all that good. It was 20th in the league last year. I don’t know, blame Chris Phillips or whoever. Probably shouldn’t have signed that dude to so many years either.
What? Oh, what we’re talking about, right: four years for a replaceable player is totally weird. I don’t know if the team thinks that Smith can stand in occasionally as a top six center during injuries, but remember when we didn’t have a second line center last year? Who got that spot? Nick Foligno…a winger. Smith stayed right where he was, getting 14 minutes a night. Then again, this is a team that pays Chris Neil a couple million bucks to be Chris Neil. It has a lot of affection for putting $8MM-$10MM on the third line, if only to balance out getting value from Colin Greening, I guess. Also, look at the structure of Smith’s deal. He’s making $2.35MM in the last year of his deal! What exactly does the team think he’ll be doing that year? If he ends up losing his job to 2014-15’s version of Kaspars Daugavins, Murray is gonna look plenty stupid. (From his cottage.)
Maybe Melnyk is feeding Bry-Bry super-secret information from the totally mature and completely reasonable CBA negotiations currently taking place in Cold War Russia. If there’s a salary roll-back, or increased escrow, or ow my brain hurts, then maybe this team is just locking the fuck up out of everyone knowing they’re about to get downsized and shipped off to India to answer technical support questions for confused white people who don’t know how to search for documents.