Brendan Smith
Bruno Rouby, ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Brendan Smith may become an unofficial utility player for the New York Rangers as he appears to be without a true position on this roster.

Frank Curto

It’s been a crazy ride for New York Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith since his arrival in 2017. Aside from the few games he played after he was acquired in a trade from Detroit, the 30-year-old has never really established a role for himself with the Blueshirts.

Last season, merely out of desperation at first, Smith was put on the fourth line wing position by head coach David Quinn. He had some success playing there as his size was a huge factor in battling in the corners for loose pucks. His defensive demeanor helped him when he played in his own end as well.

This wasn’t really a permanent thought at the time. He was filling in a role that was vacant due to trades and injuries as the season was coming to an end.

Smith was rumored to be the likely buyout casualty when free agency began this summer, then something occurred that many, probably Smith himself, didn’t see coming.

Kevin Shattenkirk was bought out of his contract. Smith would remain a Ranger for the time being. Could this be the break he has been looking for?

That answer is still complicated.

The club seemed to need Smith more than they thought following the hold out of fellow defenseman Anthony DeAngelo. The club currently has Jacob Trouba, Brady Skjei and Marc Staal, along with Smith on the blueline. It would appear that with the development of rookie Adam Fox, the team might have their top six defensemen lineup up for the start of the season.

The team is giving players such as Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren a look during camp for a potential seventh spot, at least until the DeAngelo situation is resolved.

Following Wednesday night’s preseason loss to the Devils, Quinn brought up Smith’s play to Vincent Z. Mercogliano of Lohud.com.

“Smitty and I have talked about him playing some forward — a lot of forward — this year,” Quinn said. “A lot of things can happen between now and (opening night) Oct. 3, for sure.”

New York Rangers

What is Quinn's Explanation?

There are a few ways to interpret this revelation from Quinn:

  • He thinks Smith is a necessary component to the team and wants his size in the lineup.
  • Quinn is not impressed with Smith on the blueline but has some confidence with him as a forward.
  • Adam Fox may be a “lock” in his mind to make the team out of camp.
  • Hajek or Lindgren have shown they have a chance to make the club out of camp.

These comments come after Smith’s first preseason showing. Smith was one of three defensemen to play on the right side (Trouba and Fox) throughout the contest.

He was on the ice for just 11:28, had one give away, one hit and one minor penalty. He managed to take five shots on goal.

It seems that Smith is considered a commodity to the coaching staff.

Time will tell what direction the club takes with Smith, but one thing seems certain. Somehow he has managed to stay relevant on a team that is deep at both the forward and defense position.

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