How will Brendan Smith fit on the blue line?
The Rangers traded for Brendan Smith, another left-handed defenseman. How will he fit on the Blueshirts’ blue line?
The New York Rangers traded a 2018 second round pick and a 2017 third round pick for Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith. Smith, 28, is a UFA at the end of the season. There are talks the Rangers are already looking to extend Smith.
The Rangers definitely needed help on the blue line, albeit not another left-handed shot. So how will Smith be utilized with the Rangers?
Smith is a good player; his 49.58 CF% with 52.66 CA60, per Puckalytics. These are solid numbers for a player on a subpar possession team, but it’s not like the Rangers acquired Kevin Shattenkirk. Smith can help the Rangers defense, but he most likely won’t be paired with Ryan McDonagh when everyone is healthy due to Alain Vigneault’s stubbornness to keep Dan Girardi on that pair.
The Blueshirts opted for Brendan Smith after their push for Kevin Shattenkirk fell short.gothamsn.com
Personally, I would love to see him paired with Marc Staal on the second-pair, as the Staal-Nick Holden combination has been atrocious; they have a a 46.54 CF% and a CA60 of 56.44, per Corsica Hockey. Right now, Brady Skjei is a better defenseman than both of them.
Like Holden and Skjei, Smith can play either side, which is a huge plus for the Rangers considering their lack of talent on the right side. Girardi is just not good anymore, and Kevin Klein is having an awful season. When everyone is healthy, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Klein and Adam Clendening as the healthy scratches.
Smith isn’t going to push the needle, but he’s a clear upgrade over what the Rangers have right now. Him and McDonagh, along with Derek Stepan, were teammates at Wisconsin, so he should be able to acclimate to the team fairly quickly.
This all comes down to Vigneault, though. We saw how he misused Keith Yandle when he was acquired, and that can’t happen with Smith. Outside of McDonagh—and you could argue Skjei—Smith is their best defenseman. Vigneault needs to have him on the second-pair, at the least.