Brendan Smith did not impress last season for the New York Rangers, now he will be fighting for his Blueshirt career during training camp.
The story of Brendan Smith continues to be a confusing one at best. After acquiring the defenseman at the 2017 trade deadline, he quickly fell to rock bottom a year ago making this training do or die for him.
His acquisition brought a different element to the Blueshirts blueline becoming a force with Brady Skjei in the playoffs. His play ultimately ended up in him being rewarded in the summer of 2017 with a four-year contract seeing an average annual salary of $4.35 million.
That was good, then came 2017-18 and his fall from the NHL.
A poor start last season resulted in the 29-year-old being demoted to the AHL where things continued to get worse. His future on Broadway was blurred and now enters perhaps the most important training camp of his career.
— Dom Renna (@drennaESNY) March 22, 2018
Smith has a chance to resurrect what has been a formidable career. He has been a plus player throughout his career while adding a physical presence to any blueline. For that to happen though he has to come into this training camp better than ever.
Of all the years for Smith to legitimately break camp with the Rangers, this would be the one. The team has an open competition open for the final three spots on their blueline. The expectation is that youngsters Neal Pionk and Tony DeAngelo have the edge over Smith, but that could change.
Now the idea of Smith cracking the opening night roster over Pionk or DeAngelo might scratch the head of some, but, this is a completely realistic chance. Despite an impressive sample towards the end of last season, Pionk has yet to earn himself a legitimate spot. The same can be said for DeAngelo who has had his chances to put it all together but has lacked consistency.
The question then becomes what exactly does Smith need to do to show David Quinn and his coaching staff that he deserves a chance?
First, Smith has to prove that he can still play with that same sense of physicality.
What he has to take into consideration playing his physical game, is to use it smartly. He cannot use his aggression to put the team in a bad position. If he can manage to play with that edge he has always had, smartly, then he and the Rangers will be in good shape.
He must also prove to the Blueshirts that there is a need for two defensemen that play the same style. Newly acquired Adam McQuaid plays a similar style to Smith’s and maybe that serves as motivation for Smith. But, the way the game is played today might not call for two defensemen that play similarly.
The Rangers options are tied when it comes to Smith considering his cap hit. Teams might not seem inclined to take a chance on Smith if he can not prove to the Rangers he deserves another chance. That leaves Hartford as the only option available that would allow Smith to see playing time this year.
If Smith can return to just half of the player he was in 2017. the Rangers can at least get something back in their investment. It all starts with a strong training camp and proving to the team and the league that he still belongs.