Zack Smith

Trade: Blackhawks send Anisimov to Senators for Zack Smith

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Artem Anisimov‘s name has been floating in trade speculation for more than a year now, and on Tuesday afternoon the Chicago Blackhawks finally moved him.

The Blackhawks announced they have traded Anisimov to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Zack Smith. It is a one-for-one deal that will probably make a bigger impact on both team’s financial situations than on the ice.

Both players are 31 years old, have two years remaining on their current contracts, and are coming off of somewhat similar seasons in terms of their performance. Anisimov scored 15 goals and 37 points in 78 games for the Blackhawks this past season, while Smith had nine goals and 28 points in 70 games for the Senators.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

So what is important here for both teams? Money, obviously.

For the Blackhawks, the Anisimov-for-Smith swap saves them a little more than $1 million against the salary cap as they go from Anisimov’s $4.5 salary cap hit to Smith’s $3.25 number. For a team that is consistently pressed against the cap and still has a ton of big-money players, every little bit of extra space helps. Especially as they have to work out new deals for Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome over the next year.

The Senators, meanwhile, had a different set of problems.

They were still sitting under the league’s salary floor before the trade and are now finally above it.

Anisimov’s contract not only gets them over the floor, but because the Blackhawks have already paid Anisimov’s signing bonus for this season the Senators actually owe him less in terms of actual salary, which is also probably an important factor for a team that is seemingly always in a cost-cutting and money-saving mode.

The Blackhawks have been extremely busy this offseason making multiple changes to their roster after a second straight non-playoff season. Along with acquiring Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan in trades to try and upgrade their defense, they also signed goalie Robin Lehner in free agency and brought back veteran forward Andrew Shaw.

This past week they traded former first-round pick defender Henri Jokiharju to the Buffalo Sabres for Alex Nylander.

Related: Blackhawks shaping up as NHL’s biggest wild card

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Senators’ Smith, Lightning’s Kucherov fined $5,000 each

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NEW YORK (AP) — Zack Smith of the Ottawa Senators and Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning have been fined $5,000 each Saturday for rough play during separate games.

The NHL said Smith was disciplined for elbowing Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson. The infraction came during the second period of Pittsburgh’s 5-3 home victory.

Kucherov was fined for a dangerous trip of New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield during the first period. Tampa Bay won 1-0 in a shootout.

Both players drew minor penalties during the Friday night games. The fines are the maximum allowed under the labor agreement, with the money going to a player assistance fund.

Legwand out, Smith in as Sens face elimination

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The Ottawa Senators will make a switch at center tonight against Montreal, as Zack Smith draws into the lineup at the expense of David Legwand, who’ll sit as a healthy scratch.

Smith, 27, missed a good chunk of time this season to a dislocated wrist and appeared in just 37 games. While he did play in the final 10 games of the regular season, he sat in all three of Ottawa’s losses to the Habs in this opening-round series.

Legwand, meanwhile, played in all three but was mostly a non-factor, going scoreless with a minus-3 rating and just one shot on goal.

Smith will skate on the fourth line between Mike Hoffman and Chris Neil, with the hope he can bring the energy displayed in past playoff performances. Smith appeared in 10 games during Ottawa’s ’13 run, scoring two points while racking up 31 PIM.

After 11-game absence, Sens get Michalek back for playoffs

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The red-hot Ottawa Senators are getting a key piece of their lineup back for the postseason.

On Monday, head coach Dave Cameron confirmed that veteran winger Milan Michalek — out since Mar. 21 with a concussion — will return from an 11-game absence and dress for Game 1 of Ottawa’s first-round series against Montreal.

Michalek, 30, had just 13 goals and 34 points in 66 games this season, but really started to find his form in February and March following a slow start to the campaign. He scored 18 points over his final 22 games of the regular season, that after scoring just seven in his first 22.

With Michalek drawing it, Zack Smith will sit for the series opener on Wednesday.

Onus now on Sens to prove MacLean was the problem

The Ottawa Senators fired Paul MacLean because he was too hard on his players.

OK, it wasn’t just that. The losses might have had something to do with it as well.

But the “too hard on his players” narrative is the main one that’s emerged since Monday’s announcement that the 2013 Jack Adams Award winner had been let go — a message that was pushed by GM Bryan Murray, who felt that “very definitely” MacLean had become “more demanding of some of the players, and more critical of some of the players.”

While MacLean has since expressed disappointment with that notion — “Did I push them too hard? At the end of the day, that must be what they’re saying….But I think it has more to do with me not winning games than anything else,” he told ESPN.com — the Senators now find themselves in the position of having to prove that the coaching change was the right move.

If, on the other hand, they don’t turn things around, you can imagine what people will say. Oh, the coach was too hard on you? Boo-hoo. Seems by the way you’re playing he was right to be.

The Sens host the Los Angeles Kings tonight, then hit the road for three games in Boston, Buffalo, and New Jersey.

Forward Zack Smith is hoping the change in bench bosses, from MacLean to Dave Cameron, might “spark” the team.

“It’s unfortunate to say — and I want to word this right — sometimes coaches are hired to be fired,” Smith told the Ottawa Citizen.

“It’s a tough job. If you’re not winning, you’re not going to be there long. When a new coach comes in, everyone’s trying to prove themselves and fight for a spot, and prove to that coach that they can play or deserve to be there. I think that might have slipped a bit over the last year-and-a-half.

“It’s not to put it on him, but that’s what happened. I don’t think guys were playing to their abilities. That’s what led to the poor start we’ve had so far.”

That’s the theory.

Will the Sens prove it?

Or, will their play debunk it?