The Boston Bruins got Craig Smith to take a pay cut to sign a three-year deal with them.
And provided the Bruins use him properly, this has the makings of an absolute steal for Boston that’s as beneficial for the team as it is for Smith individually.
Smith is a routine 20-goal scorer that is as trigger-happy as they come. Because of that, he’s established himself as one of the better middle six forwards with respect to creating offensive chances. It also helps that he’s a sound defensive forward. During his run with the Nashville Predators, Smith formed a near-elite third line with Rocco Grimaldi and Nick Bonino.
Put in the right situation with the Bruins, and there’s no reason to expect Smith will do anything other than contribute in a big way over the life of his three-year deal, which carries a $3.1 million annual cap hit.
The deal makes too much sense for the Bruins. They need stability on the middle six, and they weren’t in a position to tie up too much money on a singular signing — even with Torey Krug out of the equation. By signing Smith at the value they did, they’ve positioned themselves to take care of their other in-house free agents while leaving space to make another move. Maybe even a big one at that if they move money out with a trade.
Now, here’s the important part. The only way the Bruins are going to get real value out of this deal is if they plant Smith on the third line with Coyle, and don’t add him to the revolving door of wingers on David Krejci’s right. Smith has made his living as a third-liner, and while he certainly has the skills to hack it on a second unit, the Bruins are better off playing him where he’s used to.
Coyle is a puck possession monster, and Smith loves to shoot. Put them with any variety of a left winger — Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman or Nick Ritchie among them — and that could be a tremendous combination.
Seldom does the signing of a third-line forward draw as much universal and near-unanimous praise as the Bruins’ deal with Smith. And if they utilize him right, this could prove to be among Don Sweeney’s most shrewd unrestricted free agent signings.