When fully healthy, the Boston Bruins are over the salary cap. Although they are starting the year with several of their players out, they will, unfortunately, need to move out salary once they are healthy. As a result of this, Craig Smith has come up in the rumor mill. Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now also reported that he heard from an NHL source that the Bruins “had in-depth trade talks with another team” about Smith, but they ended up being “put on hold.” It’s important to note that Murphy’s source did not specify which team general manager (GM) Don Sweeney was speaking to, however.
It seems that the possibility of Smith being moved is certainly there, and it makes sense given their current cap situation. Plenty of teams would love to have the Wisconsin native in their middle six, as he provides solid offense and has a reasonable $3.1 million cap hit for the 2022-23 season. Yet, three teams stand out as excellent potential landing spots for him, in my opinion. Let’s discuss them now.
The Calgary Flames’ forward depth has been hit extremely hard this offseason. Although they added Jonathan Huberdeau from the Florida Panthers as a part of the Matthew Tkachuk trade, they still also lost Johnny Gaudreau, Calle Jarnkrok, and Ryan Carpenter. As a result of this, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see GM Brad Treliving look to add one last forward before the start of the year.
Flames head coach Darryl Sutter loves hard-working players, and that’s exactly what Smith is most known for. Although he isn’t the biggest of bruisers, his tenacity and high-energy style of play would likely make him one of his favorites. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Flames to add another middle-six forward to their current group. When looking at their right wing depth, he could fit on either their second or third line. This is especially true if they end up feeling that prospect Jakob Pelletier isn’t ready for a full-time NHL role.
With the Bruins looking to remain a playoff team this season, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for them to get a player back in a swap for Smith. One young forward who could be an intriguing addition is restricted free agent (RFA) Adam Ruzicka. The 6-foot-4 center appeared in 28 games for the Flames last season, where he recorded five goals and 10 points. He is likely in line for a two-way deal given his limited NHL experience, so he could be obtainable. However, with the Bruins looking to clear cap space, it’s also possible that they only get a draft pick from the Flames instead.
The Carolina Hurricanes were dealt a big blow when it was announced that recently acquired forward Max Pacioretty would be out for at least the next six months due to a torn Achilles. This has changed the outlook of their offseason heading into 2022-23, and it would be wise for them to add another forward because of it. With Pacioretty inevitably heading to long-term injured reserve (LTIR), they will have an extra $7 million to work with while he’s out. This is where getting a player like Smith is possible for them.
A major reason why the Hurricanes made a push to acquire Pacioretty this summer was because of their free agent departures. Both Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter are no longer with the team, and it will be hard to replicate their offense with Pacioretty also out. When looking at the Hurricanes’ right-wing depth, one could argue that Smith could be a fit on their third line. This is especially true if Ondrej Kase deals with injury troubles again and Martin Necas continues to struggle with consistency.
It would be strange to see the Bruins and Hurricanes make a trade after their recent playoff series. Yet, with the Bruins needing to clear cap space and the Hurricanes dealing with injury troubles, there could be a potential match between these two rivals.
Could a reunion between the Predators and Smith make sense? The 32-year-old winger spent his first nine NHL seasons in Nashville and was a fan favorite due to his immense work ethic. With GM David Poile still at the helm, there certainly is potential that he could make a push for Smith given their history. This is especially true when noting that they could use another forward on their roster before the season begins.
The Predators are a competitive club, but secondary scoring has been a bit of an issue for them as of late. When playing at his best, Smith has the potential to help remedy this ongoing situation. In terms of a possible spot in their lineup, he would work pretty well on either their second or third line. Right-wing depth isn’t what the Predators are known for, so adding him would be a way to help strengthen it a bit.
It’s hard to believe that Smith wouldn’t be open to a return to Nashville, either. He arguably played his best hockey as a Predator, so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a reunion. One player who the Bruins could look to add in a deal with the Predators is 6-foot-6 winger Michael McCarron ($750,000 cap hit). Although he wouldn’t replicate Smith’s production, he would provide them with more toughness in their bottom six. With that, the Bruins would also need to add a mid-round draft pick, of course.
Nevertheless, with rumors surrounding Smith starting to pick up, it will be intriguing to see if the Bruins do elect to move him. In my honest opinion, I’d rather see them keep him around, as he is what I view as a quality third-line winger. However, the Bruins are over the cap, and someone will have to be moved once players like Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk recover from their injuries. We will have to wait and see if Smith is the player they choose to trade.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHLTradeRumors.me, BBallRumors.com, BaseballRumors.me, FootballRumors.me and The Rat Trick.