Last Saturday, the Bruins signed a perennial 20-goal scorer in Craig Smith. Smith, a former Nashville Predator, received a three-year deal with an annual cap hit of $3.1 million. Smith is a natural right-winger with a strong tendency to shoot the puck-something the Bruins desperately needed for the last several years.
The contract makes a lot of sense for the Bruins. Before signing Smith, the Bruins had roughly $15 million in cap space. That wasn’t a lot of money to be able to pay a legitimate scoring wing to slide next to either Krejci or Coyle. Smith’s annual cap hit is a tremendous contract for a team that desperately needed any sign of life from the middle six wingers. Jake Debrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, and Zdeno Chara still need new contracts so signing Smith to such a reasonable deal is a victory for general manager Don Sweeney.
Smith addresses several needs that haunted the Bruins in the last two playoff runs. Smith is a legitimate source for five-on-five scoring and likes to shoot the puck. For anyone screaming who spent the last two postseasons in front of their television screaming at the Bruins to shoot the puck, Sweeney’s latest signing is good news. Smith netted 20 goals in five of his 9 seasons with the Predators and ranked 5th among all skaters with over 200 minutes of TOI last season in shot attempted per 60 minutes (11.74).
Smith should fit in nicely with Coyle, a puck dominant center, on the third line. With Taylor Hall off to the Sabres and Tyler Toffoli signing with the Canadiens, it is becoming more apparent by the minute that the Bruins will rely on internal options for more secondary scoring. It makes sense to slide Jack Studnicka onto the third line with Coyle and Smith, but that leaves major question marks for the Bruins second line. It has yet to be seen what the Bruins will do with Debrusk’s contract. Even if DeBrusk is resigned, I don’t trust him to provide the consistent playoff scoring that a legitimate second-line winger should be capable of. Likewise, Ondrej Kase’s game was anything but consistent in the NHL bubble.
Smith will fit in nicely on the third line and addresses several needs for the Bruins, but will it be enough? I’m skeptical. Studnicka will need to be a solid player for this team and although he looked quite promising in limited time in the playoffs, it’s still a lot to ask of such a young player. As currently constituted, Kase and Debrusk need to play at the top of their games when it truly matters for the Bruins to make a deep run in the 2021 playoffs.