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Sens reward Greening, Smith with one-way deals

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward Zack Smith has earned his opportunity to stay with the big club in Ottawa next year. He and Colin Greening signed one-way contracts with the Senators today and will be given the chance to start the 2011-12 season in the NHL (Scott Audette/NHL via Getty Images).
Consider the auditions a roaring success.

Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray announced today the re-signing of two of the organization's top young forward prospects. Winger Colin Greening has inked a three-year deal with the organization, while centre Zack Smith signed on the dotted line for another two seasons.

For both players, the new contracts are one-way deals, meaning the future is indeed now for Greening and Smith, who are currently with the Binghamton Senators and have helped the Ottawa's American Hockey League affiliate reach the Calder Cup final for the first time in franchise history.

Greening, a 25-year-old native of St. John's, started the season on the farm but spent most of the final six weeks of the campaign in Ottawa after the Senators dealt away six veterans before the National Hockey League's March 1 trade deadline, signalling a shift to a more youthful future. In Binghamton, he ranked second among rookies with 40 points (15-25) in 59 games.

In his first season with the big club, Greening recorded six goals and 13 points. He made his NHL debut Feb. 1 in Newark, N.J., against the Devils and recorded his first career goal in a March 3 road contest against the Atlanta Thrashers. The 6-3, 211-pound Greening, a seventh-round pick (204th overall) by the Senators in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, is projected to fill a power forward role in Ottawa.

"He’s a player that we thought would take a little more time (to develop)," Murray said of Greening. "But the opportunity after the trade deadline to play games in Ottawa helped him a great deal. His skating, his size and his strength are his biggest assets. He knows how to check, he’s a willing worker ... we think he can be a regular player in Ottawa next year."

Murray and the Senators were also impressed with the way Greening quickly developed chemistry with No. 1 centre Jason Spezza, when the two spent much of the final month of the season on a line with rookie sniper Bobby Butler.

"We thought Colin was going to be a checking, hard-working kind of player," said Murray. "But he showed a lot of offensive flair when he played with Jason Spezza in Ottawa when he got a chance to play here. He played both ends of the rink real well but just as important, he showed the ability to create space and the opportunity to get offence going for his line.

"So we like the versatility and the size that he brings, but maybe we have a player that will get a few more points than we suggested he might (produce) early on."

Though he played 24 games for the Senators this season, Greening remains eligible in 2011-12 for the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's top rookie.

Smith, meanwhile, had hoped to start the 2010-11 season in Ottawa with the Senators. But with an abundance of forwards in the organization on one-way contracts, the 23-year-old from Maple Creek, Sask., got caught in a numbers squeeze and landed in Binghamton.

However, by season's end, Smith saw 55 games worth of duty with the Senators, collecting five goals and 14 points. His 120 penalty minutes ranked fourth among all NHL rookies. The gritty forward was a third-round pick by Ottawa (79th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

"Zack has been in the organization here for a period of time and that has given him a chance, I believe, to improve greatly as a player," said Murray. "He certainly has matured in his overall game. It looks like he has some offensive ability to go along with it. So we’re very happy to get Zack in a situation where he can play on the big team next year."

With six goals and 17 points — including a hat trick against the Charlotte Checkers on Tuesday night — Smith currently ranks sixth among all AHL playoff scorers.

"(In the NHL), Zack is going to be a third-line matchup type of player," said Murray. "He’s big and strong, he handles the puck fine, but he knows how to play defence and how to play against good players. With that, he has a little bit of flair for the offence. He has a chance, I believe, to score some goals. I don’t think that’s what we’ll call upon him to do, but very definitely, he's a solid two-way guy who is just coming of age."

Both players are benefiting from the playoff run in Binghamton, Murray believes, on a young team that continues to get better with each passing round.

"They both have been very important (in Binghamton)," said Murray. "Zack has scored some goals down there and been a big-time player in real important situations in games. He’s called upon to be probably a little more offensive than he was at the start of the year. Colin hasn’t scored as many points, but he was very physical in the first period the other night.

"I think the playoff run has helped the two of them, plus many other young players in the group. We feel now that the job that’s been done down there and the depth that we have down there really allows us to be optimistic for the Ottawa Senators next year."

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