SAN JOSE - Derek Smith found a way to make the pain of his injured ankle dissipate a little more.
The Calgary Flames defenceman, who was a training camp surprise by making the opening day roster, signed a two-year contract extension with an average salary of US$775,000. The pact signed Wednesday with the NHL club is a one-way deal, which pays the same salary if he’s dispatched to the minors.
“This has been exciting — a lot of ups and downs. More ups and than downs,” Smith said Wednesday at the Saddledome. “I’m looking forward to things the next couple of years.
“This lets you do your thing out there. It gives you confidence the organization has faith in you. I just have to prove to them that I deserve it. I’ve had a lot of fun this year, and things have worked out pretty well so far for me. It’s good to get a commitment for the next few years, and things can just keep getting better.”
Smith is currently on the sidelines due to a high-ankle sprain suffered Dec. 29.
In 32 games prior to the injury, he collected two goals and 10 points.
The 27-year-old from Belleville, Ont., was originally signed as a free-agent by the Ottawa Senators after three seasons at Lake Superior State University.
He posted consecutive campaigns of more than 50 points for the Senators minor-league team in Binghamton but played just 11 NHL games for the Senators.
Smith left via free agency after the 2010-11 season and signed a two-way contract with the Flames, paying him $700,000 in the NHL.
He could have become an unrestricted free-agent after this season.
“He did everything we wanted from him. When he got hurt, he was arguably our best defenceman in that point in time, and we’ve missed him,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. “He’s an important part of our defence, and he really stepped up this year.”
Smith was given a bigger role while one of the team’s front-line blueliners was out of action due to a hamstring injury, and he flourished.
“When Mark Giordano went down with his hamstring injury, Smitty stepped-up and shouldered an increased workload and did so in excellent fashion,” Flames GM Jay Feaster said in a statement. “Up until the time of his injury, Smith was one of our best and most consistent defencemen. He is a sound two-way hockey player with very good hockey sense, and he has seamlessly fit into the chemistry of our team. We are very pleased to have him signed for the next two-seasons, and we look forward to his continued development as a player.”
Unfortunately, he, too, fell victim to the injury bug, which has impacted the Flames.
“Every day is progress,” Smith said. “I have the boot off, and I’m starting to do some leg exercises. Hopefully, within the next couple of weeks, (I’ll return).
“It’s been almost six weeks now. I’ve watched a lot of hockey. It’s time to get back at it. Hopefully, I can start skating soon. Hopefully, I get back in as soon as possible. Luckily, there are other guys to spend time with because that makes things a lot easier.”
The Flames now have five of their current defencemen signed for next season — Smith, Jay Bouwmeester, Giordano, Anton Babchuk, Chris Butler and T.J. Brodie. As well, Brett Carson and Clay Wilson, who are both with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat currently boast one-way contracts.
— with files from Ian Busby
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