Ottawa in preliminary extension talks with Smith

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Sens forward Zack Smith had a breakout performance last year, scoring a career-high 25 goals while averaging a healthy 15:24 TOI per night.

Now, in the last of his four-year $7.55 million deal, Smith is proving last year was no fluke — and that a big payday could be on the horizon.

“We’ve have some preliminary talks,” Smith said of extension negotiations on Tuesday, per the Citizen. “I don’t think we’re in a rush and I feel like both sides want to get something done. I want to be play here and I think (management) wants me to be here, too, but it’s the agent who talks about money.”

Money will undoubtedly be a focal point for Smith and the Sens. He’s a pretty good bargain right now — carrying a $1.887M cap hit — but that’s unlikely to continue with his next deal.

The 28-year-old has nine goals and 17 points through 37 games this year, missing a fair chunk of time with an abdominal injury. Despite the ailment, he’s still on pace for a pretty good offensive campaign, especially if he continues to thrive playing alongside Derick Brassard and Mark Stone.

Smith has eight points in eight games since being united with his new linemates, which included a terrific effort against Edmonton on Sunday. He notched a goal and an assist in 17:47 TOI, earning praise from assistant coach Marc Crawford.

“He is so strong on the puck and he has got a very good shot,” Crawford explained. “He’s fearless and he goes to the net.”

What kind of raise Smith gets remains to be seen. The key will be how he fits within Ottawa’s budget, and if he’s willing to potentially take less than market value to stick with the only team he’s ever known. Smith was drafted by the Sens in 2008 and has spent his entire career with the organization, but could score big in free agency — should he choose to go that route.

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