Rangers acquire Stanley Cup champion from Penguins as right-wing option

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In their continued quest to find a top-six right wing on the first day of NHL free agency, the New York Rangers made a trade instead of a signing Monday, when they acquired Reilly Smith from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a pair of future draft picks.

Smith is a veteran option to play right wing alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. The 33-year-old is a five-time 20-goal scorer, who helped the Vegas Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup in 2023.

The Rangers sent the Penguins a second-round pick in the 2027 NHL Draft and a fifth-round pick in 2025 to acquire the brother of former Blueshirts defenseman Brendan Smith. New York now doesn’t have a second-round pick in the next three drafts, and didn’t have one this year either.

Pittsburgh retains 25 percent of Smith’s $5 million salary cap hit next season. So, New York is on the hook for $3.75 million. Smith can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2024-25 season.

That last part is very important because the Rangers are not tied into a long-term big-money deal here when they face significant raises to Igor Shesterkin, Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller next summer.

The move came after the top options among free-agent forwards quickly signed with other teams.

“He’s a player we’d been looking at and talking about for a while,” Rangers general manager Chris Drury told reporters. “Brings a little versatility to our lineup, has a winning pedigree having won in Vegas. He’s a proven playoff performer and fits in nicely with our entire group. We were talking to a lot of different agents and had a lot of balls in the air throughout the day and just felt this was the best move we could make.”

Smith struggled this past season, his only one with the Penguins. He fell off to 13 goals and 40 points in 76 games on a team that failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The season before, he scored 26 goals and had 56 points with the Golden Knights in the regular season and another 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 22 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Related: Have Rangers found Barclay Goodrow replacement in NHL free agency?

Rangers acquire Reilly Smith from Penguins

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Vegas Golden Knights
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Smith is a left-shot right wing, who plays his best in big games. He was a big part of three deep postseason runs by the Golden Knights, and led them with 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 20 playoff games when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season back in 2018.

In 106 career playoff games, Smith has 79 points (26 goals, 53 assists).

Though his numbers dipped last season with the Penguins, Smith still had a 53.08 percent xGF, per NaturalStatrick. The majority of his production, typical for his career, came 5v5. With New York, he’s more of a second-unit power-play option.

Smith has 213 goals, 300 assists and 513 points in 840 NHL games with the Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Golden Knights and Penguins.

Along with putting up points in a top-six role for the Rangers, Smith will be expected to help replace the leadership lost when Barclay Goodrow was claimed off waivers by the San Jose Sharks and Blake Wheeler was not re-signed.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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