Devante Smith-Pelly could have earned more money elsewhere.
He could have locked up a little more security, too.
But in the end, being happy meant more to DSP than either of those things. And so on Thursday morning, he signed a one-year, $1 million contract to return to the defending Stanley Cup champion Caps.
“I had a couple of other offers on one or two-year deals, but I thought it wasn’t really worth it to leave somewhere where I’m happy and somewhere where I really wanted to be,” said Smith-Pelly, who earned $650,000 on a two-way deal last season.
The 26-year-old winger, of course, was one of the clutch performers during the Caps’ run to the Cup, scoring seven goals in 24 games, including tallies in Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Final.
“I think everyone can see how close we are,” Smith-Pelly said of the Caps’ dressing room. “We all want to come back and try it again with the same group. Obviously, it might not work that way. But I think that’s everyone’s intention, is to all come back and all be with the same group. We’re incredibly close and I feel incredibly comfortable there.”
“And the city, it’s embraced me and it’s a beautiful place to live,” he continued. “Like I said, the money, to me personally, is not that important if I’m not going to be happy somewhere.”
Although Smith-Pelly’s hard-hitting style of play and clutch goals made him a favorite among all fans, he acknowledged the fact that he’s carved out a special place in the heart of Washington’s black community.
“It’s great,” he said. “I love being a role model and being in a city where there a lot of black kids. I saw a lot of black people in general at the parade. To be a part of that and hopefully grow the game in the DMV area, me being a part of that, it feels good. They’ve embraced me. And I want to get back to the city that welcomed me in.”
Smith-Pelly bounced around the previous few years, making stops in Anaheim, Montreal and New Jersey since the start of the 2014-15 season. So re-signing in Washington also offered the Ontario native something he hasn’t enjoyed recently: stability.
“That had something to do with the decision,” he said. “It would be nice to stick in one place for a couple of years. And hopefully, it works out longer than just this one year next year. …I’m kinda tired of playing on new teams. It’s good to come back and be in the same place in consecutive years.”
Another reason Smith-Pelly was okay with the Caps’ one-year offer? He feels that he found his game in the playoffs and, if he can replicate that next season, it could set him up for a bigger deal next summer.
“I have confidence in myself that [things] can carry over from the playoffs and [I can] set myself up for something bigger and more stable later,” he said. “It’s definitely betting on yourself—that’s what I’m doing.”
With Smith-Pelly back in the fold, the Caps now have nine of their top-10 goal scorers from the playoffs under contract for next season. Tom Wilson, a restricted free agent, is the lone exception...for now, anyway.
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