The New York Rangers have some interesting decisions to make soon with the 2016-17 NHL trade deadline only a few days away. While Kevin Shattenkirk continues to be the center of many discussions and rumors, another name has surfaced with respect to the Rangers.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Rangers are apparently considering a potential move for defenseman Brendan Smith of the Detroit Red Wings.
Per @DarrenDreger on TSN, it seems Rangers are “zeroing in on” Detroit D Brendan Smith (age 28, lefty, former first-rounder, will be UFA).
— Rick Carpiniello (@RickCarpiniello) February 24, 2017
How Smith Could Help
Smith, 28, has never put up eye-popping offensive numbers in the NHL after showing such talent at the University of Wisconsin in 2009-10. In that collegiate season, he had 52 points (15 goals and 37 assists) in just 42 games.
That being said, the former first-round pick and brother of the Florida Panthers‘ Reilly Smith is an excellent skater who has performed well from a possession standpoint in the past. On a middling Detroit Red Wings team last season, he was arguably the club’s best defenseman.
Brendan Smith leads all #Wings D-men in:
— Prashanth Iyer (@iyer_prashanth) April 15, 2016
This season, Smith has only appeared in 33 games for the Red Wings, having missed substantial time earlier in the year with a knee injury. The Red Wings have taken a major step back this season, but while Smith’s underlying metrics are not as strong as they were in 2015-16, his 48.9% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage is still second among Detroit defensemen who have played in at least 20 games (via Corsica.hockey). That mark would be second-best on the Rangers this season excluding the underutilized Adam Clendening.
It’s no secret that the one area the Rangers need to improve if they want to take a serious shot at the Stanley Cup is their blue line. Smith, while not a big name like Shattenkirk, could help them in that regard. He only has two goals and three assists in 33 games this season, so he wouldn’t provide much offense. He would, however, give the club another strong skater on the blue line who could help them limit long shifts in their own zone.
Smith would be an immediate upgrade over two Rangers regulars on the right side, Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein. While Smith shoots left-handed, he is capable of playing the right side, as is Rangers rookie Brady Skjei. That is where the Rangers need the most help, and the mobile Smith would give them some more options.
A Worthwhile Move?
At the right price, Smith would be a worthwhile acquisition for the Rangers. Since he is a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA), there is a good chance that he would purely be a rental for the rest of this season, unless the Rangers want to extend him. That, however, would seem unlikely, especially if the club also goes after Shattenkirk either before the deadline or in free agency during the offseason.
As such, the Rangers should be sure to not pay a premium for Smith. A third or fourth-round pick could conceivably get the job done, although the price might be higher considering that the Carolina Hurricanes landed a second-round pick from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey. The Rangers should not give up any more than a second-round pick for Smith.
If they were to acquire Smith, the Rangers would be in good shape in terms of increased mobility on their blue line. Picking up Smith might also induce another move to make more room for him. Perhaps it would be Klein or Clendening on the way out (the latter would not be as shrewd as the former), but that is just speculation.
In any event, if a Shattenkirk trade or other major move does not pan out for the Rangers, trading for Smith would be a solid second-tier deal to make. With the March 1 deadline imminent, we will soon see what direction the Rangers decide to take.