OTTAWA — In more than 1,000 regular-season NHL games, Jason Smith only collected 41 goals.
But the rugged Ottawa Senators defenceman, who announced his retirement Wednesday, proved his worth in other ways.
"Whether we ever got anything out of him offensively or not didn’t matter," Senators general manager Brian Murray said at a news conference. "What I liked about Jason was his leadership and the grit he provided around the net."
In 1,008 career games with New Jersey, Toronto, Edmonton, Philadelphia and Ottawa, the 35-year-old Smith recorded 41 goals and 128 assists with 1,099 penalty minutes. He also appeared in 68 playoff games, recording 11 points.
An Oilers captain for five seasons, the Sens brought Smith in last year to offer leadership and mentor some of Ottawa’s young defenceman.
But he wasn’t able to finish the season due to injury, recording just one goal in 63 games.
Smith said he spent a long time thinking about his future.
"This summer, as I was training and working out, I just didn’t feel it," Smith said. "It’s just time to take on something new. I thought about it quite a while. It’s not like I flipped a coin and made a decision. It’s time to move on."
The Calgary native, who signed a US$5.2-million, two-year deal with the Senators on July 8, 2008, said he’s looking forward to spending time with his wife and two daughters and hopes to have a role in the game in the future.
"The game’s treated me very well and I want to give back as much as I can," he said.
Smith’s decision will help the Senators bottom line as his $2.6-million salary won’t count against the salary cap. This leaves Murray with a little breathing room. Ottawa had been about $1.3 million over the cap.
Murray is still dealing with Dany Heatley’s trade request and said there are no new developments on that front, but feels it’s important that the team know where it stands.
"I think they all just want to know where we’re going," said Murray. "To a man they pretty much have an opinion. They all are comfortable. Dany’s a good hockey player. It’s just a matter of they want teammates that want to get this thing going the right way this year."
Setting a deadline to deal Heatley has been talked about, but Murray said he wants to discuss the issue with his staff before making a final decision. The Senators open training camp Sept. 12.
"I don’t want it to be played around all through camp that we’re going to try to trade him or whatever it may be," said Murray. "We’ll see up until that point and time."
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