As active as they’ve been on the free agent market this summer, the Detroit Red Wings still have a bit of work to do with their own free agents on the roster, both of the unrestricted and restricted variety. Of their free agents, only one will be taking them to salary arbitration.
That one player is defenseman Brendan Smith. Smith finally broke through and saw somewhat significant minutes, showing that he has nice offensive upside from the blue line. It was a year that wasn’t without its struggles, but Smith certainly earned a place on this team moving forward.
Smith came into the offseason as a restricted free agent, and signing him was likely going to be easy. That hasn’t happened yet, and while he could still end up signing a deal before headed to arbitration, it could be up to the arbitrator to determine a potential amount for him on his next contract.
Just what should that new contract look like? Despite his offensive upside, this isn’t going to be like the deal we’ve seen for some young offensive defensemen throughout the league this summer. This is going to be a short term deal that will set him up to earn a new contract within the next couple of years.
Smith averaged up over 18 minutes a game, logging decent minutes on both special teams for the Red Wings. He finished the season with eight points, all coming via the assist, and a plus-1 rating. He was shaky in his own zone, but that’s something that will come with time.
While we haven’t seen him put in the goals from the blue line yet, he has that type of potential, as a guy that can pot some from back there, and will dish the puck as well. He has excellent hands for a defender and moves the puck well. That type of upside is certainly worth something.
As for his new contract, he made $875,000 on his entry level deal. Given his lack of paying time over the past couple of years, with 2013 being mainly due to injury, and his limited production over that span, it’s hard to see him getting too much of a raise. A two-year deal wouldn’t be a surprise, perhaps in the neighborhood of $1.5-2 million, with the latter end of that seeming like an overpayment.