When you think about free agent moves that put NHL teams over the top, many look to big names such as Taylor Hall or Alex Pietrangelo. Sometimes it’s actually smarter to go under the radar, though, like the Boston Bruins did by signing Craig Smith on Saturday.
The Bruins confirmed that they signed Smith, 31, to a three-year, $9.3 million contract ($3.1M AAV).
Bruins get a possible steal with Craig Smith signing
Smith, formerly of the Nashville Predators, hasn’t ever put up huge counting numbers.
That said, he scored 20+ goals in five of his last seven seasons, and likely would have hit that mark if not for the pandemic pause. (Smith sat at 18 goals and 31 points in 69 games.)
It’s when you dig deeper that Smith really shines.
Actually, he shines so brightly that people wonder if his brilliant “fancy stats” are almost too good to be true.
Craig Smith, headed to *sigh* Boston on a 3 × 3.1, is one of the best bottom 6 forwards in the sport. He's an incredible playdriver at even-strength and will help Boston's forward depth a ton. Maybe the steal of FA? #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/C005tcDgl9
— HB Analytics (@HBAnalytica) October 10, 2020
The thing is, when you’re drawing a digestible $3.1M cap hit, it’s not that big of a deal if there’s more than meets the eyes (and box scores).
As dominant as the Bruins’ “Perfection Line” of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron has been, Boston’s been chasing secondary scoring for a while now. The Bruins signing Craig Smith could go a long way in keeping the puck in their opponents’ zone (and sometimes in their net) even when that dominant trio is on the bench.
At 31, there’s some risk of decline for Smith, although his volume-shooting style tends to age reasonably well.
Bruins still have room to add more in free agency
This also leaves the Bruins with room to add a splashier name than Craig Smith. Cap Friendly estimates Boston’s cap space at about $12.3 million.
Granted, Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk linger as RFAs, so maybe that number is misleading. Then again, there have been rumblings about DeBrusk being shopped on the trade market, so don’t count the Bruins out of the Taylor Hall sweepstakes (maybe even Alex Pietrangelo after they let Torey Krug walk?).
Even if the Bruins swing for contact instead of the fences, signing Craig Smith could be a big boon.