Gator Aid

I almost feel like a bad person for deriving pleasure from the fact that Jason Smith formally announced his retirement today. When my favorite memory of a player is the penalty killing and shot blocking skills that he displayed in a lackluster 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, it’s pretty telling. Besides, I shouldn’t feel too bad. The organization has already given the man some perks. Just last year he received two gifts from the organization — his $5.2M, 2-year contract and a painting from a local artist that commemorated his 1000th game and celebrated a lengthy career. Smith retired after 15 seasons, 1008 games and having his name be mentioned synonymously with words like: warrior, grizzled, veteran, leader, grit, and Gator.

Brought in as a seasoned veteran who was renowned for his leadership and for playing a game tailored for the postseason. When he signed in Ottawa, I thought the organization overpaid for his services. However, I could kind of understand the reasoning to bring in Smith as a stabilizing presence for a dressing room that was regularly questioned by pundits during the Ray Emery era. Unfortunately for Sens fans, we never got to see Smith shine during the playoffs. As the Senators stumbled through the campaign, Smith’s season was prematurely ended when he injured his knee.

Smith said that he wasn’t forced out the door and I tend to believe him. With his bum knee and contract, I think Smith came to the realization that even if he came back, he faced the likelihood of being waived or eventually winding up in Binghamton. Besides, the writing has been on the wall or in quotes in the local rags. Since late last season, the organization has been fellating Erik Karlsson with verbal love and now the organization has no qualms in sliding Karlsson into one of the 5th or 6th defensive slots.

With Smith’s retirement, the Senators are now approximately $1.47M under the salary cap. Even with that room, there’s no one significant on the open market who could help on the blueline. So assuming that Dany Heatley isn’t dealt for defensive help before camp, the Senators will have Karlsson, Christoph Schubert, Brian Lee and Alexandre Picard battling for the last two spots. Considering that Schubert’s never really proven himself to be a favorite of Murray and Lee has played some significant minutes in the past two seasons, the last spot really comes down to Picard versus Karlsson.

Frankly, I think Karlsson has to make the team for Bryan Murray’s sake.

Whether it’s fair or not, Murray’s tenure has been highlighted by some shrewd moves, some controversial signings and a losing record. Short-sighted fans will blame Murray for the team’s fall from grace, the one thing that many can agree upon is the strength of Murray’s drafting. If the team doesn’t perform at a competitive level, the ability to watch the Crown Jewel of Murray’s tenure might be the only saving grace that he’ll have.

Leclaire’s New Mask:

I was searching the Senators webosphere ce soir and came across some images of Pascal Leclaire’s mask over at The Universal Cynic. Check them out.