Why Craig Smith signing is an excellent free agent move for Bruins
Why Craig Smith's signing for Bruins is a very good free agent move originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Bruins have chosen one of their greatest needs when they join the NHL agency by signing a three-year contract valued at $ 3.1 million per season.
The secondary goal was a major issue for the Bruins last season, especially in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Well, to be clear, Smith on his own is not going to fix that weakness. The Bruins need to add one more quality - maybe a free agent like Taylor Hall, Mike Hoffman or Tyler Toffoli? - Going into the next season with a strong enough group of strikers but throwing Smith into the mix is a tremendous start.
Updated view of Bruins' blue line with Torey Krug gone
Let's start with Smith's 5v5 production.
The Bruins were run over during the playoffs with a minus 12 goal differential (17 goals, 29 allowed) 5 against 5. Smith was supposed to make Boston more productive in this regard than someone who shoots a ton of puck - an average of 205 puck shots over the past seven years - and wins puck battles all over the ice with his physical game.
Smith helped the Predators increase puck possession at a very rapid rate last season. They were up 159 in shot attempts, up 112 in net shots, up 59 in scoring chances, and up 24 goals scored 5v5 when Smith was on the ice.
Except for David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand at the helm, Boston had no reliable scorers on the wings a season ago. Jake DeBrusk is able to offensively produce Boston in spurts, but he's too inconsistent. Perhaps Ondrej Kase is more productive in his first full season with the B's, but that remains to be seen. Jack Studnicka could create an offensive spark but he will be a rookie in 2020-21.
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Smith has scored more than 20 goals in five of the last seven seasons, and he would likely have hit that mark in 2019-20 had the regular season not been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He finished 31 games with 31 points (18 goals, 13 assists).
His hat trick against the New York Islanders in February was a good example of his two-way ability. The first goal was pretty impressive - it stole the puck from Islander's defender Nick Leddy and hit from a ridiculous angle.
The seasoned winger could play on the second row next to center David Krejci, but the ideal fit would be on the third row next to center Charlie Coyle. Coyle had an impressive playoff run in 2020 but didn't have enough skill on his line. Smith is an upgrade over other third-tier options like Anders Björk, Karson Kuhlman, Nick Ritchie, or Chris Wagner.
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Another positive attribute of this Smith signature is the contract value. The Bruins didn't have to set much tenure (just three years) or salary ($ 3.1 million salary cap) to earn it.
Signing a consistent 20-goal goalscorer who is permanent (hasn't missed more than six games in a season since 2012), plays a physical style, has 52 playoffs experience and in many advanced stats for only 3.1 million US dollars per game has very high odds. Season is a breeze.
The Bruins have a lot more to do in the free agency with a cap space of around $ 11 million. And they have yet to figure out what to do with some of their own free agents, including defenders Zdeno Chara and Matt Grzelcyk and forward Jake DeBrusk.
But it's hard not to be encouraged by Boston's start after Smith signed.
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