Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Senators Add Proven Leader In Smith

With the signing of Jason Smith, the Ottawa Senators now have two out of three of the best shot-blockers in the game today.

According to TSN, Smith and Anton Volchenkov join Niclas Havelid as the only three NHL players to block more than 600 shots in the past three seasons.

For those of you keeping track, Ottawa now has 3 premier shut-down defenseman in their lineup for the coming season. The problem is now on the other half of that equation where there is not much firepower coming from the blueline with the departure of Wade Redden.

Regardless, this is another smart signing by Bryan Murray. The high-end players were much too expensive in the free-agent market and Murray chose the only remaining path by beefing up depth and character with Jarkko Ruutu and now Smith.

There will be periods during the regular season when Murray will be able to upgrade his roster through trades and the prices won't be nearly as high. If Murray can manage to get Antoine Vermette and Andre Meszaros under contract, the fans will be looking at another strong lineup with only goaltending as a major concern.
Players like Brian Lee will be able to show what they can do and if the job isn't being done, Murray will have better options than overpaying for the likes of Dan Boyle and Brian Campbell.

As for Smith, the Senators are getting a guy who is a little past his prime and whatever little offensive ability he once had has now all but vaporized. But he has been a captain in two organizations for six years straight and will be a big presence in that locker room.

No one should draw the conclusion that Smith wasn't wanted in Philadelphia anymore. The main reason for Smith leaving was that Mike Richards is ready to take on the captaincy there and his progress couldn't be held up any longer.

In fact, Smith was being pursued by a multitude of teams and the reason he chose Ottawa will probably come out in the next couple of days after a phone or press conference has been held. Getting $5.2 million for two seasons probably had something to do with it.

The Senators may not have a heavyweight anymore, but they will be a tough team to play against. With Smith, Ruutu, Cody Bass and Chris Neil, there is no longer a shortage of grit in Bytown.

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