Matt Duchene on Senators putting Zack Smith on waivers: 'It's a kick in the balls for us'

To say that the Senators' rebuild is off to a rocky start would be an understatement. Star defenseman Erik Karlsson is off to the Sharks, Mark Stone reportedly wants out, Jean-Gabriel Pageau is out for an extended period of time with an Achilles injury and now forward Matt Duchene is apparently upset with the team after it placed Zack Smith on waivers Tuesday.

"I'll be honest, it's a kick in the balls for us," the 27-year-old Duchene said on Tuesday, via TSN.

In the awkward video the Senators shared with Eugene Melnyk announcing the rebuild, he implied that there would be a lot of player turnover. Apparently, Smith was one of the dominoes to fall in that process.

Smith's value in 2017 was mostly complementary, but as always he was strong on special teams. He notched five goals and 14 assists in 68 games last season, predominantly as a third-line center behind Duchene and Pageau. Smith, 30, is a 10-year NHL veteran. The move comes as a surprise given that the Senators got thinner at an already thin center position with Pageau going down. Clearly, the team wants to shed salary. Smith is slated to make $3.25 million per year until his contract expires.

Smith is on contract with the Senators until the 2021 season, and head coach Guy Boucher said that he'd serve the same role in the upcoming season if he clears waivers -- which is unlikely -- adding "It's a tough day for the players," via TSN.

Duchene was the fourth-leading scorer on the team behind Karlsson, Stone and Mike Hoffman (who was later traded for off-the-ice problems) -- although Duchene tied for the team lead in goals with 23. Duchene, who spent the early years of his career with the Avalanche, is entering the final year of a five-year contract after being traded to the Senators last season. Presumably, the Senators would like him and Stone to be together on the first line moving forward, but this won't do anything to help the team retain him.

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