Rangers Waive Brendan Smith

The New York Rangers traded a 2018 second-round pick (from Ottawa) and 2017 third-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings for Brendan Smith. After a strong finish to the 2016-17 regular season and encouraging performance in the playoffs, the Rangers extended the unrestricted free agent with a four year, $17.4 million contract. Today, it’s been announced that he was placed on waivers.

Smith has found himself in the pressbox for quite a few games this season as a healthy scratch due to some disappointing play. Through 44 games, he has eight points and has averaged 17:10 minutes (which is ahead of only Steven Kampfer and Tony DeAngelo).

His underlying numbers aren’t too favorable either, but certainly aren’t the worst of this blue line. According to Corsica.hockey, he’s third in 5-on-5 Corsi for percentage (46.28, plus-1.04 relative), but a minus-1.64 relative to his teammates in terms of expected goals for, meaning that the Rangers are allowing quality shots with him on the ice. Many point to the traditional statistics when citing whether a defenseman has been effective, even if that’s not the best method; Smith’s 50 goals for percentage is the third highest on defense (plus-1.75 relative, behind only the first pair).

By no means has it been a successful season for Smith, but his underlying numbers and time as a healthy scratch still are somewhat conflicting considering how the rest of the defense has played. Still, he hasn’t been playing up to expectations and struggled in this system, which is likely why he’s on waivers today.

Now that he is on waivers, other teams around the NHL have the opportunity to claim him. If not, he may be assigned to Hartford to refine his game, and the team could hope that this will spark a turnaround. On the other hand, him clearing waivers could also increase his trade value to teams in need of defensive depth. Smith’s contract not only includes a $4.35 million cap hit, but  a modified no-trade clause that limits the Rangers to trading him to the 15 teams he lists.