Seconds after announcing their seven-year extension with Nikita Zaitsev, the Toronto Maple Leafs also revealed that they’ve signed forward Ben Smith to a one-year, $650K deal for next season. Smith was set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Maple Leafs now have options when it comes to the expansion draft, as previously it looked like they would have had to expose Matt Martin along with Eric Fehr to fill the forward requirements. Since Smith played 40 games this season, he can be used as “fodder” to fill one of those two slots.
Smith will turn 29 this summer and has carved out an NHL existence throughout the years despite never being able to duplicate his 2013-14 season with the Blackhawks. Playing in 75 games that year, Smith scored 14 goals and 26 points while getting votes for the Lady Byng trophy. His success in the faceoff dot, combined with his perceived penalty kill acumen has earned him another contract though even the Maple Leafs rarely used him after his wrist injury this year.
In 40 games split between the Maple Leafs and Avalanche, he scored just four points and was one of the worst possession players in the league. It will be interesting to see if the new deal is a one-way contract, as the Maple Leafs likely will not have room for him on the NHL roster next season.