Rangers looking to build up Brendan Smith’s value
The Rangers are still rebuilding. No one should forget that, regardless of the fact they spent this summer making big moves in Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, and Artemiy Panarin. Part of that rebuilding process is developing prospects which can be done in the NHL if the right spots are available. Currently that is not the case and it is why both Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov are starting the season in Hartford.
Yesterday at practice, defenseman Brendan Smith was playing on the 4th line with Brendan Lemieux and Lias Andersson. If you are hearing this for the first time you should be scratching your head. It’s okay, this is a normal reaction. Sitting in the press box will be forwards Gregg McKegg and Michael Haley. Hard to initially understand why a natural forward wouldn’t be starting tomorrow.
Let me just provide you two reasons why this makes a ton of sense for opening night. The Rangers 3rd pair defense will be two rookies in Libor Hajek and Adam Fox. In the preseason, Fox looked amazing but Hajek had some moments of struggle. If that were to happen tomorrow, Quinn can easily give Hajek a breather and insert Smith at the left defense position with Fox and try to win the game.
It also allows the Rangers to showcase a solid player who is versatile enough to play defense and forward. The 30 year old Smith has one year remaining on his deal after this season. The AAV is $4.35M and the Rangers will likely need to retain 50% of it in order to trade him. That is still better than a buyout going forward.
The bottom line is that in order for the Rangers to get Chytil and Kravtsov back they need to make room in the lineup. It can start with Smith and go from there.