ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Instead of cashing in on another productive postseason performance, Devante Smith-Pelly took less money and a one-year deal to stay with the Washington Capitals.
Smith-Pelly signed a $1 million contract for next season Thursday to return to the team he helped win the Stanley Cup by scoring seven playoff goals. The 26-year-old third-line forward turned down other one- and two-year offers for more money to give himself some stability in a place he feels comfortable.
“It wasn’t worth it to leave somewhere where I’m happy and somewhere where I really want to be,” Smith-Pelly said. “The money to me personally is not that important if I’m not going to be happy somewhere else.”
Smith-Pelly, who was not even a lock to make the opening-night roster, was one of the Capitals’ most important playoff players. The Toronto native had seven goals and nine assists in 75 regular-season games and then had two game-winners during his scoring tear in the playoffs.
After New Jersey bought out Smith-Pelly last summer, he signed a two-way, league-minimum contract worth $650,000 in the NHL and $350,000 in the American Hockey League. Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan called Smith-Pelly a “project,” buying low on a 2010 second-round pick who scored five goals for Anaheim in the 2014 playoffs but kept bouncing around.
Smith-Pelly has 40 goals and 53 assists for 93 points in 341 regular-season games with the Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, Devils and Capitals. Smith-Pelly was ready to stop the career carousel.
“It’d be nice to just stick in for one place for a couple years, and hopefully if it works out, longer than just this one next year,” Smith-Pelly said. “It definitely played a role in the decision. I’m kind of tired of playing on new teams and all that stuff. It’s good to come back and be in the same place consecutive years.”
The Capitals wanted him back even after not giving him a qualifying offer Monday as a restricted free agent. Doing so at a cost of $715,000 would have opened them up to an arbitration case and, at the very least, kept Smith-Pelly’s salary-cap hit an unknown until the hearing in July or August.
It didn’t get to that point. The team continued to negotiate with agent Eustace King, and Smith-Pelly was more than happy to take a chance on putting up bigger numbers going into unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2019.
“I have confidence in myself that I can carry over from the playoffs and do something and then set myself up for something bigger and more stable later,” Smith-Pelly said. “It’s definitely betting yourself. That’s what I’m doing, and I’m confident in myself.”
Re-signing Smith-Pelly is the latest move on MacLellan’s offseason checklist after already locking up defenseman John Carlson to a $64 million, eight-year deal. The Capitals still need to hire a coach to replace Barry Trotz — with top assistant Todd Reirden considered the leading candidate — and are attempting to re-sign defenseman Michal Kempny.