Trade Talk: Brendan Smith

I don’t know what the asking price is [for Shattenkirk], but it’s too high for the Maple Leafs. It’s too high for the New York Rangers, who have dabbled a little bit there. It seems like they’re maybe zeroing in on Brendan Smith of the Detroit Red Wings. (Source)”

Darren Dreger slid this little bit in during a visit to Toronto’s TSN 1050.  Until now, Brendan Smith is a name that has been kicked around as a possible deadline move since he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year, but the link between him and the Rangers hadn’t been made. Considering the Rangers’ immediate need for a puck-moving righty, he doesn’t fit the bill, so any link at all is a bit of a surprise.

At the core, what the 6’2”, 211-pound Smith would give New York is a reliable depth defenseman—more so than Adam Clendening—who can fill in without a drop in play. Marc Staal is a good comparison for Smith, as both are big, minute-eating lefties who will provide some physicality but few contributions offensively. Here is Smith steamrolling Derick Brassard, just for kicks.

While the physical aspect is nice, the real value in adding Smith to the lineup would be in the fact that he’s a strong possession player. This year, on a struggling Detroit team, he still owns a neutral Corsi rating and, other than this season, he’s never been below 53.2%. That ability, combined with his size, makes him a nice add for defending against teams like Columbus and Washington, who want to get the puck down low and grind out goals.

Where he fits is anyone’s guess. As a seventh defenseman, he would figure to slide into the lineup if any injury occurs. Or, if Alain Vigneault likes his game, he could play on the left and allow Brady Skjei to move to the right side while pushing one of Dan Girardi, Nick Holden, or Kevin Klein out of the lineup.

Conversely, he may be a fit on the right side as well. In 33 games this season, Smith has been deployed primarily with Niklas Kronwall and Xavier Ouellet, who are both left-handed. Vigneault prefers to have his lefties on the left and righties on the right, but some positional flexibility would make Smith more valuable as a seventh defenseman and improve his shot at earning significant time.

What Smith would cost is even more perplexing than where he’d fit. The Michael Stone trade set the bar for a depth rental defender at a third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick. Maybe fourth-round and sixth-round picks get him? Perhaps Matt Puempel is a guy that the Red Wings might like? Who knows, really. Interestingly, Smith did play with both Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh at Wisconsin, so maybe the familiarity there could make Gorton and the coaching staff a bit more comfortable upping the cost.

At quick glance, Smith doesn’t seem like a great fit and isn’t really what the Rangers seem to be in the market for. But, if the price is right, his ability to play in a number of spots in the lineup and his sound defensive game could make him a smart deadline acquisition. If he plays well, re-signing the former first-round pick could help mitigate the loss of, say, Staal, should Gorton & Co. decide to shed that salary in the offseason.

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