Senators lock up centre Zack Smith

An NHL lockout may be on the horizon, but that hasn’t stopped the Ottawa Senators from continuing to sign players to long-term extensions.

Senators lock up centre Zack Smith

Imagine Zack Smith’s surprise.

Disappointed by both his offensive production and his defensive play in the second half of the 2011-12 season, his ears perked up two weeks ago when his agent called saying the Ottawa Senators were interested in signing him to a long-term extension.

The negotiations ended Wednesday with Smith agreeing to a four-year, $7.55-million deal. Smith, 24, was already under contract for the 2012-13 campaign, meaning he’s now signed through the 2016-17 season.

“It’s exciting and flattering,” Smith said in a conference call Wednesday. “It’s a nice end to the summer.”

Smith, who figures to serve as the club’s third line centre and a top penalty killer if and when the season does begin, acknowledged “it’s not common” for a player with only one full NHL season of experience to receive such a lengthy contract. Smith scored 14 goals and 12 assists last season and has 20 goals and 18 assists in 152 career NHL games.

Yet the deal is in keeping with what Senators general manager Bryan Murray said last week when he extended fellow centre Kyle Turris for another five seasons last week. Murray says the organization wants to secure its young, core players wherever possible.

When he’s at his best, he can match up against top opposition lines, can keep defenders honest with solid bodychecks, will fight if necessary and has decent hands, capable of chipping in offensively.

Murray labelled Smith as a “big, strong, NHL-ready, younger-type player.” Murray expects Smith to help fill the toughness void left by the departures of Matt Carkner and Zenon Konopka to free agency. He also believes that Smith has yet to reach his peak and that he will become a more consistent player as he matures.

Smith is the first to admit that he was inconsistent last season. In the first 41 games, he scored 11 goals and nine assists. In the second half, he had only three goals and three assists. Late in the year, he also struggled in penalty killing situations.

He knows the Senators are banking on the first-half Smith showing up all season long in 2012-2013.

“I had a good start, offensively I had good numbers,” he said. “I hit a wall and I got pretty frustrated with my lack of production, at one point. I got off track in my game. There are a lot of things I want to improve on and my defensive play slipped at the end of the year.

“I want to be a guy who goes out at the end of the game and takes key faceoffs and holds teams off.”

Smith’s confidence should also grow simply knowing the Senators see him as a big part of their future.

“I like where I fit with the team,” he said. “It’s flattering they want me there.”

Twitter.com/CitizenKWarren

More Senators news:

Tags: , ,

What do you think? Leave a comment