A day after losing Torey Krug to the St. Louis Blues, the Bruins have added winger Craig Smith from Nashville on a 3-year pact worth 3.1 million on average. This deal is an absolute steal for the Bruins and Smith will likely slot in perfectly on Charlie Coyle or David Krejci‘s right wing. The American winger, a native of Wisconsin, has played for the Nashville Predators since 2011-12 and has scored at least 10 goals each of the past 7 seasons.
Smith will add scoring and defensive acumen to a third line which desperately needs it after a bad showing during the playoffs. A power forward by brand, Smith adds size at 6’1″ and 208 pounds and physicality, averaging around 73 hits each year. The former Predator is a relatively little-known winger but will bring a lot to a Bruins team which desperately needs it. Smith totaled 18 goals and 13 assists in 69 games played last year, and more importantly, 18 of those 14 goals were in 5 on 5 action. The 31-year-old Craig Smith’s strengths play to the Bruins needs very well because of that success even-strength.
As for the cap hit, the contract is back loaded. Smith will only make 2 million on the NHL roster this year. Next year, his cap hit will rise to 3 million, and in the final contract, Smith will make 4.3 million. He has also scored 20 goals and was on pace to score 20 before the Covid shutdown, again, considering the Bruins mostly used Anders Bjork, the since departed Danton Heinen or Jack Studnicka (who was pretty good in fact) on the third line. This will give Coyle a dependable third line winger for the first time as a Bruin, if not Krejci (which would push Ondrej Kaše down). Either way, the Bruins will have a new presence on the right wing in Craig Smith which they haven’t had in a long time.
The Bruins also extended oft-injured defender Kevan Miller. While incredibly effective defensively when healthy, he has played just 39 games since the beginning of the 2018-19 season and missed every game this past season with various ailments. His NHL cap hit only totals around 1.25 million but could earn up to 2 with incentives. This deal is a very low-risk move for the Bruins, and Miller will look to make what is undoubtedly a remarkable comeback. His offensive game is mediocre, but is among the best defensive defensemen on the Bruins roster.
As for the loss of Torey Krug and the Bruins’ blue line, they suddenly have a shortage of defenders. Some prospects may be ready to take the leap. Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril seem ready as they played very well in Providence. The Bruins were obviously in on Oliver Ekman-Larsson. However, Arizona’s asking price proved too high for both the Bruins and the Canucks. They reportedly wanted Jack Studnicka, a high pick, and would not retain salary on the high-priced and over the hill Ekman-Larsson. However, as the Florida Panthers may look to clear cap room, they may move defender and Milton native Keith Yandle. Although Yandle does have a no-movement clause, he will reportedly waive it to go to Boston.
The Bruins also have multiple restricted free agents, including Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk. All signs point to the Bruins bringing Zdeno Chára and Grzelcyk back, which solidifies two defensive lines, but the third line and the role of that power play captain is up for grabs. Charlie McAvoy could take that role or the Bruins may revert back to a 3-forward power play unit as they did when Torey Krug was off the ice during the playoffs. Another option is Matt Grzelcyk, who has steadily improved each year. Prospects Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril could also vie for the role. The Bruins are also very high on Jeremy Lauzon and his defensive development, but he will not have a very large offensive role.
Left Shot Defensemen Available
Calgary’s Erik Gustafsson
Chicago’s Slater Koekkoek
Detroit’s Trevor Daley
New Jersey’s Mirco Müller
New York Islanders’ Andy Greene
Vancouver’s Oscar Fantenberg
The Bruins also have the trade chips to acquire a left shot defenseman too. It may not surprise me if they take that route, and package failed free agent signing John Moore with a player like Anders Bjork to get a solid left shot defenseman. The Bruins are clearly not done.
Photo Credits: Andrew Bershaw, Getty