When the Rangers inked Brendan Smith to a four year deal two summers ago, it was generally received as a pretty solid move. Smith had a good stint in New York following his acquisition at the trade deadline, and parlayed that into the contract. Let’s just say that we, those who were good with the Smith signing, were wrong. For the I TOLD YOU SO crowd, I hope you were at least hoping he was going to be good.
It’s not just the rebuild that has put Smith’s future in question. Smith was demoted to the AHL last season, in his first year of the deal. He’s been in and out of the lineup for a while now. With another two years at $4.525 million remaining, the Rangers appear to be on the hook for the rest of the contract.
However let’s play Devil’s Advocate for a second. Let’s play along for this exercise, and go with the assumption that Smith can be a useful defenseman when on a team that isn’t as hopeless defensively as the Rangers. It’s a stretch, but stick with me here.
Finding a suitor for Smith is difficult. Even at 50% retained ($2.26 million), the Rangers have almost no leverage in any trade situation. But there could be value. Teams always need defense, and there are always trade scenarios. After all, the Rangers were able to deal Ryan Spooner.
Zack Kassian – Edmonton
When in doubt, always go to Peter Chiarelli. The Oilers are still a train wreck on the blue line, just like the Rangers, and Chiarelli seems to have no idea how to address it. Smith offers some of that veteran grit that he seems to love, and has the added benefit of playing both sides. At $2.26 million, perhaps Edmonton can look into another bad contract swap.
Zack Kassian is a potential match here. The Rangers may look to part ways with Cody McLeod at the end of the year, and Kassian seems to fit that role a little better (emphasis on a little). Kassian has two years left at $1.9 million remaining. That’s about a $350k difference in salaries for the remaining years on the deals. That’s certainly workable.
Mark Barberio – Colorado
Another team that may be in the market for defensemen, Colorado may be looking to make some moves to solidify their blue line before their playoff run. Targeting the Avs has another added benefit of a playoff team that probably shouldn’t be. They aren’t deep at all, and pretty flawed.
Mark Barberio is an interesting target. The 28 year old journeyman has two years left at $1.45 million, so there’s an $800k difference there. Barberio has been a healthy scratch a ton, and he gets about 50% of the games in Colorado. He’s on IR now, so maybe the Rangers can leverage that and sell that Smith is actually a healthy body?
Matt Hunwick – Buffalo
Buffalo took on the Hunwick contract to get Conor Sheary from Pittsburgh. Hunwick has two years left and $2.25 million left on his deal. That’s almost an even swap for both teams. Perhaps Buffalo gets a useable defenseman, and the Rangers get someone who played somewhat decently for them a few years ago. It’s a typical change of scenery trade.
What might work for the Rangers is that Hunwick has only played a few games this year. If Buffalo views Smith as an upgrade and someone that can play for a playoff team (potentially), then the Rangers might be able to get something else in the trade. Anything is possible, right?