Bruins should be lead player in Brendan Smith sweepstakes
Last week the Calgary Flames acquired Arizona defenseman Michael Stone to put themselves in a better playoff position.
This week the Boston Bruins should replicate the effort for Detroit’s Brendan Smith before Wednesday’s 3:00 pm trade deadline.
Both players are comparable in size, skill level and annual cap hit. While the Flames gave up a third-round pick this June and a conditional fifth rounder in 2018 for Stone, the Bruins should up the ante to their first-round pick this June which looks somewhere in the No. 15-20 range with a projected overall weak field in this year’s Entry Draft.
With the Rangers reportedly in hot pursuit of Smith, here’s a look at why a Bruins’ first-round offer is valid – and likely puts them in the driver’s seat with the rebuilding Red Wings.
Bruins’ abysmal draft history.
The Black and Gold have secured nine No. 1 and nine No. 2 draft picks in seven drafts since 2010. No. 1 plums Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton were sent packing with nothing in return. The only No. 1 pick since 2010 to be on the current roster is David Pastrnak. Of nine No. 2’s, only Ryan Spooner and Brandon Carlo are on the varsity roster.
Smith, a No. 1 pick by Detroit in 2007, is a better player than both Spooner and Carlo. He comes to Boston as a developed No. 1, while the organization languishes in not getting No. 1’s to the NHL.
Smith’s cap fit
At $3.2 million this season, Smith becomes an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. A five-year deal in the 20-million range at four million a year is the likely next contract for Smith, two million of which can be applied from John-Michael Liles’ current contract, his last on Causeway Street. The Bruins can fit Smith into their salary cap and also give Pastrnak his $25 million for the next five years.
Smith fixes much of the D and Zee dilemmas
The Bruins are on the hook for one more year of their captain’s contract at $4 million next season when he turns 41. How much longer can Chara play?
At the same time, how many conversations about the Bruins’ need to improve their blue line can the fans endure? Smith automatically becomes the team’s No. 3 defenseman behind Chara and Torey Krug – and a major bump ahead of Carlo, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Collin Miller. While Carlo is penned in as a developing and hopeful No. 2 or 3, the latter three have reached their playing plateaus.
With the anticipation of last year’s No. 1 pick in BU’s Charlie McAvoy making the roster after his last skate on Commonwealth Ave. in several weeks, a Bruins’ blueline core of Chara, Krug, Smith, Carlo, McAvoy, allows for one of the remaining McQuaid-Miller-Miller to be dealt or lost in the expansion draft to fill the new Vegas Golden Knights roster.
Not to mention a significantly more formidable defense to begin 2017 than any the past several seasons.
Chara, Krug, and McAvoy are all also offense producers. Smith, a superb skater, might fit that mold eventually, but his value is more in the stay-at-home type. He can bang with the best with his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame needed in tight games and playoff scenarios when going to the dirty areas in front of Tuukka Rask and in the corners needs a price to be paid. He is durable with an average of 60 games a season and entering the prime years of his career at 28.
He is also a leader. Before he began playing with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg, Smith captained the 2010 Wisconsin team to the national championship game, while also being a runner-up for the 2010 Hobey Baker Award.
Not a big offensive threat. His best year was 2013-14 when he put up 5-14-19 in 71 games with a minus-2. His career plus-minus is just about even. Only Chara has a commendable plus-8 on the current roster. Carlo is about even, the rest significantly on the minus side.
The knock on Smith is he sometimes struggles reading the game at the highest pace – and can struggle against the opposing team’s first line. He can get tangled in tight spaces and in some games, he appears to be missing in action.
One major intangible
Smith is the brother of former Bruin, Reilly Smith. We never know how deep bro love goes with Brendan Smith possibly advised to avoid Boston as his next stop.
In the end
One NHL insider on Smith: “Big competitive kid who can really skate.”
In the old and the new NHL, that summary and Smith’s overall skill set is worth a major push to acquire his services in Boston.