Sheffield Steelers: Tony Smith happy to use contract 'fail-safes' to suit club

Tony Smith is backing coach Aaron Fox's stance on terminating the roll-over contract of any player he thinks can be replaced by somebody better.

Thursday, 4th July 2019, 13:43 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th July 2019, 13:43 pm
Ben O'Connor at Nottingham

Several Sheffield Steelers' players have deals apparently taking them into season 2019-20.

But Fox has made it plain that such links can be severed, if he believes it is in the best interests of the club.

Centreman Evan McGrath, for instance, has a deal but the club has not made it explicitly clear whether he is returning or not.

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The top points-scorer's name has not appeared on the eliteprospects.com roster website whereas goalie Jackson Whistle, for instance, has.

"A contract is about what's in it - and they include escape clauses, which work for either party," said the Smith, the club's proprietor.

"They are in for a reason. If Ben O'Connor got an offer in the KHL and wanted to leave then I will respect it.

"Likewise if a player is not going to fit into a particular playing-pattern, we will use it (the clause in the contract.)

"Nobody involved would be breaking the contract, they would just be using it to its fullest extent."

Smith is entirely satisfied that he if did exercise the clause on any contract, there would be no harm done to the club's reputation.

"This sort of thing is done all over Europe," said Smith. "They are a fail-safe for everyone."

The owner says players who get hurt in games will always be protected.

"The worst thing a club can do is sack an injured player - we have never done it and never will."

O'Connor, 30, is a hugely-attractive asset for many elite teams in Europe, although he is happy at Steelers.

Just over a year ago, he parted company with Sheffield to seemingly join KHL side Barys Astana of Kazakhstan.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” said the then-head coach Paul Thompson, who added: “One the club couldn’t and wouldn’t stand in the way of."

But Astana were taken over by new owners who decided against the deal the club had just inked, leaving O'Connor to claim he'd served the: "shortest contract in KHL history."

He then rejoined Steelers to become arguably their most influential player.