With just over three weeks left before the NHL Trade Deadline, talks are starting to heat up around the league. With the poor season, the Ottawa Senators are having, it is no wonder that they are reported to be sellers. One of the likely scenarios is a Zack Smith trade. There have been multiple reports that suggest Smith, along with Mike Hoffman are on the chopping block.
The Ottawa Senators Should Explore a Zack Smith Trade
Just a couple of seasons ago, Zack Smith was having a career year. Coming off a 25-goal season, the forward was at his highest productivity. Two years later, the looks of Smith staying on the Sens roster is dim. In 35 games played this season, Smith has managed just 12 points, three goals and nine assists. While Smith has missed a handful of games due to injuries, this is still well below his normal pace.
His advanced stats aren’t too compelling either. Smith sits with a Corsi Percentage of 46% on the Senators right now. With a Corsi relative at 0.0 also. Not only is his on-ice threat gone, he’s struggling on every side of the spectrum right now. The forward is averaging 16 minutes per game this season, which is just a few seconds less per game than last year. Smith has spent the majority of this season on a line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Tom Pyatt.
When not with those two, Smith was on a line with Ryan Dzingel and former Senator Kyle Turris. The question remains, what happened to Smith’s offensive presence? No one expected him to score 25 goals every season but his offence has completely evaporated. Smith is in his first year of his new four-year, $13 million dollar contract (AAV of $3.25 million per season). Its certainly not the best time for the forward to lose his scoring touch. Now with each day that gets us closer to the trade deadline, he looks like a candidate on the move from the nation’s capital.
Assets the Ottawa Senators Can Get From a Zack Smith Trade
Year in and year out, teams overpay for players at the Trade Deadline. Usually, the general managers who sell high are having a poor season, and want the most in return to retool their team for the upcoming year. Senators general manager Pierre Dorion should use this strategic approach when February 26th rolls around. It’s clear that the Senators season is definitely over at this point in time. Dorion should try his best to make wise moves and get the Senators on track for a successful season next year.
If Dorion plays his cards right he might get a team to overpay for Zack Smith, leaving the Senators on the better end of the deal. Smith has proved that he can play on all four lines. Teams who are looking to load up for a deep playoff run might look at that, and be even more intrigued at the thought of acquiring the forward. The best scenario for the Sens would be getting player in return, who is cheaper and has the same skills as Smith does.
A team who has been interested in the Senators available players has been the St. Louis Blues. The Blues have expressed interest in winger Mike Hoffman, but Dorion might try to bring Smith into it if they can’t reach a deal on Hoffman. Surely Sens fans would care if they lost one more than the other. In reality, the best Pierre Dorion might get out of a Zack Smith trade is a pick, and possibly another conditional one to sweeten the pot. A pick or two might be something the Sens need more than a roster player. Heading into the 2018 draft, the Ottawa Senators do not have a first or second-round pick (though with a low finish in the standings they could keep their first round pick and give their 2019 pick to Colorado).
In-House Replacements For Zack Smith
If general manager Pierre Dorion indeed can’t get anything but picks in return, it’s not a negative outcome after all. Over the past several games, the Senators have called-up many young players from the AHL due to injuries. Some stand out more than others. If the Senators are all about going young for the remainder of the season, here are two options they should consider as a replacement for Smith.
After spending another year in the QMJHL in 2016-17, Filip Chlapik is playing pro hockey. In 32 games for the Belleville Senators, the forward finds himself with 17 points after tallying 6 goals and 17 assists. Chlapik finds himself fifth on the team in scoring behind forward Gabriel Gagne. Six of Chlapik’s assists have come on the man advantage, putting him at the top of the hill in that category.
Chlapik has played ten games with the big club this year and has looked extremely impressive in his showings. Although the rookie is waiting for his first NHL career goal, he’s managed to contribute by adding two assists in the ten games he’s suited up for. He’s found himself mostly on the third and fourth line, but something Sens fan get excited to watch nonetheless. After a strong start oand impressive outings on the NHL stage, Chlapik could be the first step to the Senators getting younger in the future. If the Sens complete a Zack Smith trade, it might open the doors for someone like Filip Chlapik.
Nick Paul is an interesting name throughout the Ottawa Senators depth chart. After being involved in the Jason Spezza deal, Paul has yet to find himself with the big club at the age of 22. After spending the first season in the AHL for most of his time when coming to Ottawa, the rookie hasn’t found himself able to stay with the Senators long-term. In the three years that he’s been with the Sens, Paul has only managed to play 36 games in the NHL, while playing 148 in the AHL.
The 22-year-old has seen himself play 11 games with the Senators this season, only registering one goal. Not something that comes across positive but with more ice time in the big show, Sens management will hope to bring back the forward’s confidence. One final reason Nick Paul is a good replacement is something that hasn’t been mentioned a lot of this year. Paul is currently in the last year of his first NHL contract. If there’s any time for him to prove he’s a valuable piece, it’s now. Not only does he get to show he means something to the Senators or other potential teams when he hits the market, but the Sens can evaluate on what they want to do with him going into the offseason.
Final Verdict on a Zack Smith Trade
Although staff and management love what Zack Smith brings to the Ottawa Senators, it never hurts to look around. The bottom line is simple for the Sens, Smith hasn’t been playing up to his expectations and he costs a lot to keep around for his level of productivity. Even a return in picks could help the Sens in the future, if the team is looking for a retool then acquiring a second-round pick goes a long way. A team that is looking to improve upon for the next season and years beyond that, shouldn’t be held without picks in the first 60 selections of the draft.
The Ottawa Senators should definitely look into a Zack Smith trade. It helps not only now but in the future. It also opens up a lot of doors for upcoming talents throughout the Ottawa Senators pipeline. When February 26th is upon us, Pierre Dorion should be looking at moving Smith for the best possible return he can get on the market.