The Nashville Predators and Craig Smith have come to terms on a new contract following Monday’s arbitration case, the league’s first of the summer. According to Elliotte Friedman, the two parties reached a deal, like P.K. Subban last summer, without the help of the independent arbiter.
The contract is a five-year deal with an AAV of $4.25 million, according to Elliotte Friedman. The actual cash in the deal starts at $3.75 million next season and rises by $250K each season for the duration of the contract.
Smith is the Predators leading goal-scorer over the last two season and ranks second to Shea Weber in total points over that span. He scored 23 goals and 44 points last season, and he scored 24 goals and 28 assists the season before.
Smith’s HERO chart (below) provides a nice snapshot of his game. He’s scoring at a solid rate and creating opportunities, but his defensive game isn’t at the same level. But he’s been generating offense at a great rate, giving him a score-adjusted CF%Rel of 3.4% last season and 2.6% the season before. That’s made a little easier by the fantastic zone starts he gets, with a 19.2% ZSO%Rel in the 2014-15 season.
The deal provides a nice balance between Smith wanting the opportunity to prove himself in order to get paid and the Predators wanting to lock him up on a longer term contract.
The re-signing of Smith is a key piece of Nashville’s offseason. The team’s goaltending and defense is very strong, but there are questions about the strength of their forward group. Smith, along with a number of younger prospects, notably Filip Forsberg, are key to the team building a perennial contender. Locking him up for five years should give the team important depth scoring if players like Forsberg or Kevin Fiala can become an elite level scorer.