Nashville Predators Free Agent Watch – Craig Smith


Every team is now in full off-season mode, and the Nashville Predators are no exception. Mike Fisher is close to signing a two year deal, according to reports. The NHL draft is coming up on the 26th. Maybe David Poile makes another surprise trade like he did last year. Also, next season’s schedule is set to be released soon, and that always opens up fun discussion and predictions. Ladies and gentlemen, the NHL off-season fun has begun!

Oh yeah, there’s that little thing called “free agency” as well. That’s set to open up July 1st, and speaking of free agents, Craig Smith is going to be one.

For a breakdown of free agent statuses and the difference between them, check out this page.

Current Status: Restricted Free Agent

Smith signed a two-year, $4 million contract extension back in September of 2012. Smith was young and coming off of a 14 goal season the year prior. It was a bit of a gamble at the time, as Smith only had one season of NHL experience, but it’s a gamble that has paid dividends. Since signing the extension, Smith has scored 51 goals to go along 57 assists. Over the last two seasons, he has only missed three games, and played in every game last season.

Smith made $2 million last season.

2014-2015 Season

There were a lot of high hopes for Smith coming into this past season. He had eclipsed the 20-goal plateau the year prior and much was expected from the young winger. For the majority of the season, Smith played on the 2nd line with Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson and enjoyed a great deal of success. He was able to put up 23 goals and 21 assists for a total of 44 points on the year.

It was a slight step back from the year prior in which he tallied 52 points, but he reached the 20 goal mark for the second straight time. Smith also provided scoring on special teams. He finished tied for second on the team with six goals on the man-advantage. Smith was one of the young guns who lit the lamp in the playoffs, finishing with two goals and three assists in the six games against the Blackhawks.

Even breaking down the advanced statistics, Smith was a stud last year. He finished with and even-strength Corsi-For of 56.1% and Fenwick-For of 56%. Those were 5% and 4.4% better than the team as a whole, respectively.

All in all, Craig Smith had a fine season and is due for a raise. Despite a slight dip in his overall numbers, he proved that he can be a solid contributor on a consistent basis, something we haven’t yet seen from all of Nashville’s young forwards (I’m looking at you, Colin Wilson). Smith’s next contract will almost definitely reflect a new-found confidence in his abilities.

Future With the Predators

“Four years, something like that, probably makes sense.”  -David Poile

Smith will be back in gold next season, you can pretty much count on that. The interesting thing will be how much he makes, and for how long. Poile has said that he’d like to lock Smith up for the long term. Talking with The Tennessean about Smith and fellow free-agent Wilson, Poile said “Four years, something like that, probably makes sense.”

Four years seems like a good deal for all involved. The Predators would keep Smith around through his prime, and he would get career stability on a team that is emerging as a legitimate contender.

A pay raise is definitely coming, but how much of one is anyone’s guess. The guys over at On the Forecheck did a great job of comparing his numbers to others around the league and came to somewhere in the $3-4 million a year range, which seems about right. Poile will do his best to keep that number as low as he can, possibly by taking another risk and offering a longer term for a lower annual average value (AAV).

The only thing that could sour negotiations is if arbitration occurs, I won’t bore you with the details, but it would basically mean that the Predators and Smith are so far apart on what they want that they have to have a third-party decide on it. You can read a quick breakdown of it here. That could happen, but I’m of the mind that David Poile knows the future of this team is bright, and that making sure one of his emerging stars is happy is important.

Regardless of how the contract negotiations pan out, Smith will definitely be a Predator next season. He’s young and just hitting the prime of his career, and hopefully will be with the team for a long time to come.

Gut Feeling Odds of Re-Signing: 100/0 In Favor

Next: Does Mike Ribeiro Return To Nashville Next Season?

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