The kid was a young Shane Corson (this era, not the high scoring 80s before people call murder) to start off the season, gets hit in the head earlier this year and his play went down significantly.
The signing suggests that he may have recovered from whatever was ailing him. If he can show the form he showed at the beginning of last season, this is an excellent signing for a bruising young 3rd line centre who has the potential to hit 15-20 goals every year.
And for better or for worse, it looks like BMurr is leaving his legacy with the organization for the foreseeable future with signings of key young players. All four centres on the starting lineup are now signed for the next few seasons at least (Jobber signed for two more seasons, Regin being counted as a winger).
Winchester, a very competent 4th line centre, will likely not be retained - unless he doesn't get signed by anybody and decides to sign a 2-way contract.
I like the signing and it's a fair contract. I think Smith has the potential to be a top-end checking centre in the league. He's sound defensively and he has decent hands. Looking forward to seeing him in a Sens jersey for the next four years (well, assuming he doesn't get traded in that time).
He showed that he could be a legitimate game breaker.
With Konopka and Carkner leaving the fold, it's important to retain some sandpaper that can still play a good shift and provide some supplementary offence.
Don't forget Foligno too. He may not have been a fighter but he could hit and did not back down from physical play.
This will be a big year for Smith. With those guys gone, after Neil the team will be looking to him to be the main sandpaper force on the team.
I just hope he doesn't take the responsibility to be 'the tough guy' too seriously and forget how to take a regular shift, like Neil did for awhile when we stopped playing McGrattan. That's one of the reasons I'm still kind of unhappy that we let Carkner walk. Smith has the potential to be an better offensive producer than Neil ever was. His 14 goals last season was just two shy of Neil's career high, and he did it with worse linemates. I like him as a Fisher-Neil hybrid. I don't want him trying to take over Konopka's role.
This will probably be a fair contract. This guy just oozes character and even if he never regains the goal-scoring form we saw early in the year, I expect that he will be a solid character guy long term. Worst case scenario he'll regress and end up a slightly overpaid 4th liner. But I don't think he'll ever be useless in the next 5 years, especially on a roster that lacks other mean young forwards.
Konopka showed last season what impact a gritty guy without too much skill can have on a playoff series.
Agreed with your point about Neil once he was the primary heavyweight on the team - it certainly took its toll and he wasn't contributing in other ways as much.
What I've liked about the evolution of Neil is that he seems to have a good sense of when he has to step up and make a statement, but doesn't fly around like a bull in a china shop when it isn't required.
In the beginning, Martin held him back a fair amount, but he'd still get in trouble trying to be mean (IIRC running after Domi in that 2004 Game 7 situation that led to the opening goal, instead of playing the puck).
He's developed a great deal in that vein.
What's funny is that Carkner only played 29 games last season. There are fewer and fewer heavyweights in the league these days. You just can't afford to play a guy 4 minutes anymore, so I'd say the number of dance partners for Matt is diminishing.
Playoff hockey is obviously different. He really played the best hockey of his career, and was rewarded for it with a nice contract. Can't help but be happy for the big guy.
I like this signing. Feels out of the blue though, timing wise, I dunno. Good that Murray's not letting the CBA stuff slow him down.
I'm suprised some of you guys aren't sold on ZS yet, I've become a fan from his ethic and physicality, touch of meanness, etc. He did slow down last year but I'm confident he'll bounce back - we've seen more good from him than bad, right?