WASHINGTON (AP) — Brendan Smith signed a $17 million, four-year deal with the Rangers, solidifying New York’s blue line and setting the market for free agent defensemen.
Smith will count $4.35 million against the salary cap through the 2020-21 season. He was set to be an unrestricted free agent Saturday.
General manager Jeff Gorton announced the deal Thursday, a significant move as the Rangers seek to reload for another run at the Stanley Cup.
Smith, 28, would have been one of the top blue liners available in free agency after the Rangers acquired him as a rental at the trade deadline from the Detroit Red Wings. Smith had three goals and six assists for nine points in 51 games, averaging a career-high 19:14 of ice time.
Agent Anton Thun confirmed that there is some no-trade protection for Smith all four years.
In 309 games in parts of six seasons, Smith has 16 goals and 55 assists. A left-shooting defenseman who can play the right side, the Toronto native has strong puck-possession numbers and will be a top-four player for New York, perhaps playing with captain Ryan McDonagh.
New York bought out 33-year-old Dan Girardi and could be without Kevin Klein if back problems force him to retire or leave for Europe. The Rangers’ revamped defense could include McDonagh, Smith, Brady Skjei, Nick Holden, Marc Staal, Steven Kampfer and recently acquired Anthony DeAngelo.
The Rangers still have roughly $15 million in cap space and still need to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast and add a backup goaltender after trading Antti Raanta and center Derek Stepan to Arizona.
Had Smith hit the open market, he likely would have earned the second-biggest contract behind Kevin Shattenkirk, who was traded at the deadline from St. Louis to Washington. Shattenkirk is from New Rochelle, New York, and has been linked to the Rangers, but Smith’s deal might change that equation.
Smith’s contract could help set the market…