Since the beginning of last season, a Brendan Smith trade –specifically to Ottawa– seemed like a good bet. Smith has one year left on his contract at a $4.35 million cap hit, but only $2.35 million in real dollars. That makes him extremely marketable to teams like Ottawa, who lack defense depth and don’t want to add that much salary.
Unexpected Staal Trade
Believe it or not, the Marc Staal trade may have derailed any plans to trade Smith. The Rangers freed up more cap space in trading Staal than they would have by trading Smith. By keeping Smith, the Rangers ensure they have some depth outside of Jack Johnson in case of injury.
The plan on LD, at least what it looks like, is to have Tarmo Reunanen, Yegor Rykov, Libor Hajek, and K’Andre Miller compete for at least one spot on the blue line, possibly two. If all four show they need AHL time, then the Rangers would plug in both Smith and Johnson.
It’s also worth noting that Smith can at least play the position to a replacement level. He’s a viable option for 3RD if the Rangers do move Tony DeAngelo to the left side.
Injury and Roster Depth
Expanding on the kids, there is no sure bet that any of them earn their spot on the roster. It is expected that Miller needs AHL time. Hajek has been atrocious at the NHL level. Rykov had an injury riddled year, although is playing well in the KHL at the moment. Reunanen is a solid prospect, but still a relative unknown.
There is a non-zero percent chance that all four wind up in the AHL or abroad for this season. In that case, the Rangers need bodies to fill out the NHL roster. That’s where both Smith and Jack Johnson come into play. It won’t be pretty, but at least Smith can hold his own. Johnson is, at the very least, a warm body. There’s no need to rush the kids when this likely isn’t a true competitive year.
There’s also injury depth to consider. Regardless of who makes the roster, the Rangers won’t go a full year with six healthy defensemen. They will again need to plug in bodies to fill in minor injuries.
No Teams Need Cap Salary
This is another big one, as there are no teams that really need to get to the cap floor anymore. Ottawa, which was my big trade partner here, is at the cap floor with six defensemen, not including Erik Brannstrom. There are no other teams with major holes on defense that would consider adding Smith.
A Brendan Smith trade isn’t that likely anymore for all these reasons. It may actually be more beneficial for the Rangers to hold on to him. At the very least, he might keep Johnson out of the lineup, and do so while performing relatively well on a bottom pair.