There have been rumblings over the last few months that the Edmonton Oilers might be willing to send away defenceman Ladislav Smid, and over the last few days those rumblings have gotten very, very loud. Edmonton sports reporters Ryan Rishaug and Dan Tencer have both tied Smid to the Nashville Predators, and the team has had scouts at the last few Oilers games.
Is it a deal that makes sense?
Ladislav Smid is a young veteran. At just 25 years of age, he already has more than 300 games in at the NHL level. He isn’t an offensive star but he can both pass and skate with the puck, and he adds size to any line-up. He isn’t a punishing player physically but he doesn’t have any compunctions against mixing it up after the whistle.
He’s also relatively cheap; he becomes a restricted free agent this summer, ending a two-year deal that paid him $1.3 million per season. Things haven’t changed much since that deal; Smid’s gotten older but he hasn’t made any major strides in performance. However, the development curve for defensive defencemen is generally a long one; Smid’s just entering his prime years at the NHL level and it is entirely within the realm of possibility that he has yet to reach his ceiling. Even if he doesn’t progress, he is a useful defensive defenceman: he gets a lot of defensive zone starts and generally plays against mid-level competition, and has had decent success in that role on a poor Oilers team.
He would fit into the same age range as the majority of the Predators’ defence corps. Aside from Francis Bouillon, the Predators have six defencemen between the ages of 23 and 27. One would imagine the Predators picture Smid starting out in the role Shane O’Brien plays at the moment; he is in the same price range, and O’Brien is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
I’ve never understood why a rebuilding team in Edmonton would want to send Smid away; he is young, and they’ve finally burned through those painful development years after elevating him to the NHL far too early to showcase their return from the Chris Pronger trade. Now that he’s a competent contributor, it makes little sense to deal him.
It is also difficult to see the Oilers getting something immediate back from Nashville; perhaps a second or third round pick or a lesser prospect, someone who might eventually turn into what Smid is now. If Smid goes, the Oilers will have to find someone to take his minutes, and given the current makeup of the team that someone is highly likely to be another rookie.
Any NHL team looking for responsible depth on defence, and a player with some upside, would be well-advised to look at Smid.