In the days leading up to the trade deadline this past February, rumors circulated about the New York Rangers acquiring another player. It turned out the Blueshirts acquired defenseman Brendan Smith from the Detroit Red Wings for a 2018 second-round pick and a 2017 third-round pick. Let’s take a look at how Smith has done so far here in New York City and get a verdict on this trade.
The Initial Reaction
Now, my knee-jerk reaction, probably along with many Rangers fans, was “Why did you give up more picks for an average defenseman?!” In the past, deadline deals for the Rangers have not worked out (Eric Staal, Keith Yandle). In the Staal deal, Staal never lived up to what he could have been and in both deals the Rangers gave up prospects and assets that should have been used to re-stock the cabinet for the future.
So this deal, based on the past trades, did not make sense. To top it off, Smith is not really the game-changing player that the Rangers need to increase their odds of a deep playoff run. With the East being as good as it is, the club could have used a player of such caliber. However, they did not go out and get a game-changer probably since prices were too high for players like Kevin Shattenkirk. So why spend the picks on someone who will not move the needle?! Overall, not a good move at the deadline in my opinion.
18 Regular Season Games Later
Well, was my initial reaction wrong. I did not think he would move the needle for this team, like a Kevin Shattenkirk would have, and he has not since the initial deal, but Brendan Smith has brought another element to this Rangers team. An element that was desperately needed to try and help this not so good defense core. The element: Physicality. Smith is your typical physical defensive defenseman and clearly not one who is afraid to drop the gloves. The man will not shy away from anyone in a fight. Just look at his days in Detroit when he tried to step up to the plate against Zdeno Chara.
Physicality is hard to play against night in and night out and it makes this Rangers team, which is already full of skill and speed, that much harder to play against. On top of this, he is a former Wisconsin Badger, where teammates Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh played. This college familiarity made the transition easier for Smith, and he has already started to develop some chemistry with McDonagh.
For the playoffs, chemistry can fix a lot of problems; just look at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ third line from last year with Kessel, Bonino, and Hagelin. Not to mention, Smith is a solid skater which this Rangers defense core needs badly as well. Lastly, he brings more playoff experience. The Rangers’ locker room already has a lot of this but another voice can never hurt. The Red Wings are a model for making the playoffs and with Smith being on a team that has not missed the playoffs until this year, he can bring a different view into the room. Smith brings assets to the table that could pay off in the playoffs. After taking a closer look at him, he could very quickly help this team make a deep run in these playoffs.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 16, 2017
Brendan Smith has made a distinct impression on the Ranger faithful. His physicality brings another element to a team that desperately needs it. So now the question is, do the Rangers re-sign him? It is a tough one to answer when looking at their cap situation and age. If certain moves are made in this offseason, such as the buying out some of their bad contracts, for example, I would have no problem offering a contract to Brendan Smith. But as mentioned, moves will have to be made this offseason before he comes back to New York City.