Getting The Most From Brendan Smith
Brendan Smith symbolizes the New York Rangers 2017-18 season perfectly. Disappointment, but the writing was on the wall from the start. I was a fan of Brendan Smith last season, and while he was overpaid, I thought he would be a staple for the Rangers defense. Quite the opposite happened. Coming into the season reportedly “out of shape” is inexcusable, and doing so after signing a nice contract is even worse.
It has been documented by many that Smith’s value is as low as it gets. The reality is that Gorton gave Smith a bad contract that looms large over the team’s head. Yet reality simply isn’t fun. Most likely Smith is a Ranger next fall, but creativity could change that.
Since Smith’s trade value is as low as it is, Smith would have to go to a team fitting two requirements: cap space and defensive depth.
Because of Smith’s fall from grace, teams will be extremely wary to take on the contract. With that said, there are ways to entice a team to take on a contract, much like the Rangers did when they acquired Matt Beleskey in the Rick Nash trade. With rumors of Mats Zuccarello being on the move this summer, the team could realistically ask if Smith can be thrown into the package. A change of scenery, as well as a real shot to make an NHL roster, may cause a restoration in Smith’s game. Of course, hurting this is Smith’s modified no-trade clause, but again, if he can get an opportunity to play elsewhere that’s better than being buried, released or benched.
It just seems like Smith doesn’t have a realistic chance next season to play for the Rangers. Kevin Shattenkirk and Anthony DeAngelo will both be returning. Neal Pionk has established himself as a top-six defenseman. Plus, the forgotten seventh defenseman Steve Kampfer also will be under contract. Essentially, the team cannot afford to bury Smith in the minors and stunt the growth of their up and coming defensemen. Inserting Smith in a trade with Zuccarello may yield a smaller return but not by very much.
The Rangers organization is currently locked and loaded with potential future talent on the blue line. With a plethora of draft picks and prospects, Smith fits in nowhere. Hindsight is 20/20 because coming into this season the team was not supposed to be selling.
Now it will be an unpopular opinion but Smith and a draft pick – third or later – or a prospect could again entice a team to take a flyer on him. Of course, this would involve retaining salary; however, it may behoove the team to retain some salary instead of plugging the pipeline.
Again, it is unlikely that Smith is not a member of the New York Rangers next season. Many fans are screaming to buy out his contract or bury him in the AHL. The fact of the matter is that Brendan Smith failed the Rangers this season in a disastrous fashion. The team can ill afford to compound his misdoings by having dead cap until the end of the 2023-2024 season.
Jeff Gorton needs to be creative here, and I believe that Smith was doomed to fail from the second he signed his contract. The team hurts from believing in Smith’s growth, and at 29, his trade value is as low as it’s ever been and only getting lower. It’s an unpopular opinion but Smith can help a team that doesn’t rely on him as much as the 2017-18 Rangers wanted to. It’s up to the front office to find the team that fits that mold.