The Edmonton Oilers announced this morning that they have agreed to terms on a two year contract extension with Ladislav Smid. As per Ryan Rishaug the deal is worth an average of $2.25M which if true is a significant raise over the $1.4M Smid made playing for the Oilers last season. In April I looked at Smid's season and in general I liked what I saw but I don't think it was worth $2.25M annually.
Smid, who was a restricted free agent, received a qualifying offer from the Oilers on Monday keeping him from becoming a restricted free agent tomorrow and opening the door for possible arbitration later this summer if a deal could not be worked out with the Oilers. Arbitration isn't needed now though since an agreement is in place. In fact, if the Oilers are planning to offer significant over-payments to all of their RFAs I'm going to bet they can just take "arbitration hearings" off their to-do list for the summer right now.
Smid is an effective defenseman for the Oilers but $2.25M is an over-payment. In April, I thought that a new contract in the range of the $1.8M that Kurtis Foster makes would have been both a good raise for Smid and would have been reasonable for a defense-only defenseman who plays in the Oilers middle defensive pairing. Clearly Steve Tambellini and Oilers management see things differently.
Undoubtedly some will say that the contract value doesn't matter because the Oilers won't be anywhere near the salary cap this season or next. While I agree that the Oilers likely will not be butting up against the cap in the near future that doesn't make overpaying everyone a good idea. By overpaying Smid now it diminishes his trade value in the future and makes it hard to not overpay again in two years time when this deal expires, at a time when the Oilers are going to have to be very cap conscious.
Can Smid up his level of play and salvage this deal? I doubt it. With just a single goal in the last four seasons it's pretty unlikely that Smid is going to start contributing on the offensive side of the ledger. So to live up to this deal he'll need to improve significantly in the Oilers end of the rink where he is already pretty good.
Derek's defense paring scoring chance data is encouraging with respect to Smid in that it shows that when paired with Jeff Petry, Tom Gilbert, or Jason Strudwick (small sample size alert with Strudwick) his pair is even or better. Since the Oilers only had five defense pairs at even or better and Smid was part of three of those it looks like Smid is able to handle some tough minutes. But for this contract to turn into a value contract the Oilers will need Smid step up and show that he can handle top line minutes paired with Ryan Whitney. I'm not sure he can do that. And if the Oilers were to acquire two defensemen as Jonathan Willis suggests, Smid would be moved to the bottom pair making this contract just ugly.