Josh Lipman: A Third Round Pick and Ryan Graves for Craig Smith
The Rangers have an obvious need at center after losing Derek Stepan and Oscar Lindberg. David Desharnais should take over fourth line duties, but New York can’t contend without adding a two-way pivot for the top nine.
The remaining free agent options clearly don’t impress Jeff Gorton. Big name trade targets like Matt Duchene might prove cost prohibitive. It’s time to get creative.
Craig Smith has everything the Rangers should want. He grades above average in every category of Domenic Galamini’s HERO charts. Plus, Smith’s only 27 and signed to an affordable three year contract at a $4.25 million cap hit.
The Predators left Smith unprotected in the expansion draft and chose to shield Calle Jarnkrok instead. Furthermore, Nashville gave a big contract to Nick Bonino in free agency.
Between Jarnkrok, Bonino, and star center Ryan Johansen, Smith stands fourth on the Predators’ center depth chart at best. Smith’s contract might not look so cheap to them when slotted so far down the pecking order.
With both Johansen and scoring winger Viktor Arvidsson due big new deals, Nashville could prove amenable to moving Smith as a cap dump. They already shipped forward Colin Wilson to Colorado in a similar deal for a measly fourth round pick in 2019.
If Smith can be had on the cheap, then the Rangers must pounce.