Zack Smith the first casualty of Eugene Melnyk's promise for change

Yahoo Canada Sports
Zack Smith has been a heart and soul player for the Senators. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Zack Smith has been a heart and soul player for the Senators. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Eugene Melnyk did say that things would be different moving forward.

Zack Smith, the longest serving member of the Ottawa Senators, was placed on waivers Tuesday afternoon in a move that raised some eyebrows around the league.

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TSN’s Brent Wallace spoke with Ottawa’s head coach Guy Boucher about the situation.

So, the Senators are making the 30-year-old available to the other 30 teams in the league. If nobody is interested in his $3.25 million cap hit for the next three seasons (which wouldn’t be surprising), Smith will return to the team and likely won’t be sent to the AHL, as Melnyk would still have to pay his salary either way.

Smith’s teammate Matt Duchene summed up the situation best.

Seriously though Ottawa, what are you doing? There isn’t a guy on the team that has been more loyal to the organization. Every single one of the 587 games (542 in the regular season, 45 in the playoffs) he’s worn a Senators jersey has been played with a tremendous amount of heart, grit and determination. Yes, he might be getting paid a little much considering the numbers he puts up offensively (five goals and 19 points in 68 games last season). And yes, the NHL is a business. But that’s a pretty ruthless thing to do to your team’s most tenured player and a strong dressing room presnece.

Following a 30th place finish last year, Melynk did say that his organization would be a little bit different moving forward. Ottawa released a bizarre video on its Twitter account earlier this month where Melnyk and veteran blueliner Mark Borowiecki discussed the future of the team. In it, Melnyk makes it clear the lineup would be shaken up for the upcoming season.

“This coming year … 10 of the 22 players are going to be new,” he said. “And then the following year, it’s going to go up (to) about 15 of the 22, maybe 16. That’s a total turnover which is exactly what should be in a rebuild.”

Is this really the way to do it, though?

It’s not like the Senators don’t have the cap space to keep Smith ahead of the 2018-19 campaign. Based on CapFriendly, they’re actually projected to have nearly $9 million of wiggle room. So, what was the point of this?

Is Melnyk just being cheap and trying to get rid of a contract to allow a less expensive replacement to come in to take Smith’s place? Or is he trying to send a message to the room?

When it comes to the Senators owner and his antics over the last few years, you just don’t know anymore.

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