Reilly Smith is still just 25, yet he isn’t that far removed from fears of traveling down the dreaded “journeyman” path.
He was at a fork in the road in 2015-16: either stick with the Florida Panthers after being traded from the Boston Bruins or find himself bouncing around the NHL some more.
Smith was already on his third team when he joined the Panthers, but he made a big impression with the Cats. He generated a career-high with 25 goals, and maybe most importantly, wowed with eight points in six playoff contests.
The financial reward was significant: a five-year, $25 million contract extension.
It’s about more than just money, however.
Sticking with a team with such potential and chemistry – not to mention getting that security with a nice term – made the move a “no-brainer” for Smith, as he told the Miami Herald.
“I feel like I’ve found a home here in Florida,” Smith said.
“That means a lot. … I’m still fresh in my career, and I hope there’s a lot more good times still to come.”
With a modified no-trade clause, Smith also has some say regarding where he goes if the good times hit an abrupt stop.
The young forward has to feel pretty nice about being part of the core of this team as it pivots to a new direction. The front office staff changed in dramatic ways while Brian Campbell and other familiar faces were replaced by the likes of Keith Yandle and Jason Demers.
Smith and Vincent Trocheck really earned their spots in 2015-16, and they now enjoy life as established players.
Some are more convinced than others that this will all work out, but if nothing else, Smith has to be awfully happy at the moment.
What a difference a year makes …
Speaking of finding a home with the Panthers … Jonathan Racine hopes to eventually do so. He signed a one-year, two-way deal with the team today.