Latest posts by Phil Kocher (see all)
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While the NHL’s general managers are now free and clear to begin speaking to pending Unrestricted Free Agents to ascertain their levels of interest, the Rangers haven’t yet given up on the idea of bringing back defenseman Brendan Smith, who is just five days away from reaching free agency for the first time in his career.
According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Smith remains engaged with Jeff Gorton in “working toward a resolution that would allow Brendan to return to the Rangers”:
“Nothing has changed as far as Brendan is concerned in terms of his desire to sign a new contract with them. Obviously there’s a marketplace both sides are aware of that includes upcoming free agency and possible trades, but I think we’re trying to achieve the same objective.”
Smith, acquired from the Red Wings for a couple of draft picks at the trade deadline, played effective, physical hockey for the Rangers down the stretch, and really demonstrated his value to the depleted Blueshirts defensive group in the playoffs while paired with first-year breakout rookie, Brady Skjei.
The Rangers, who project to have more than $20M available to spend in free agency, have plenty of cap room to accommodate Smith’s asking price, having recently traded Derek Stepan and his $6.5M cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes. The only question is how willing are they to pay market value—a term Brooks reports is four- or five-year contract north of $4 million per year—to keep the former Wisconsin Badger in New York through to his early thirties? With just four days until the market opens, there’s not much time left for Gorton to negotiate.
Smith brings a quality as far as toughness that is lacking among the rest of the Rangers’ defense, which added a welcomed nuance to their most recent postseason run. The concern is that he may wear down and become another poor value contract to deal with in the final years of his contract.