Matt Smaby: New contract sets the tone for training camp
Matt Smaby said the past three Lightning training camps he attended felt like he was "swimming up stream." With his new two-year, $1.05 million deal, the defenseman believes it forces the team to take a long look at what he can bring to the lineup.
Not that the one-way contract guarantees Smaby a roster spot -- "I definitely have to earn my spot. It's not a walk-through, by any means" -- it's just that having a contract with guaranteed money "gives me a better shot than anything else."
The contract, which pays $500,000 next season and $550,000 in 2010-11, also lets Smaby and the team avoid arbitration. Smaby had wanted the one-way deal. Tampa Bay had given the restricted free agent a qualifying offer of $660,000 if he played in the NHL, $65,000 if he ended up in the minors.
Smaby, 24, earned lots of points last season for playing several months with a broken right foot, doing it at a time when the Lightning defense was depleted by injuries. Smaby said that after resting for two weeks after the season, he was back in the gym. The foott, which did not require surgery, is in good shape.
"I feel what I did any guy fighting for a spot would do," Smaby said of playing hurt. "It definitely (stunk) losing, but I learned a lot from last year, and I played in a lot of different situations. I just pushed myself to get better every day."
His hard work this summer, he said, has added eight pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame. Even so, at 240 pounds, he is a lot leaner.
"He's worked his (butt) off," Smaby's agent, Ben Hankinson said. "You're going to see a much-improved Matt Smaby."