Over the last few weeks, the Habs have been experimenting with call-ups from Hamilton as sixth defensemen, playing with Francis Bouillon. It's doubtful that this will be sufficient come playoff time however, and with questions about Raphael Diaz's health in the near future, the Canadiens are left with Tomas Kaberle and Yannick Weber. The former is doubtful to suit up for the team ever again, as management seems to be holding him out for fear that an injury will derail its plans to buy him out in the summer. The latter seems to have lost the faith of the coaching staff, and if he's back from injury in time, could be dealt himself come April 2nd.
For a long time, Ladislav Smid was best known as that other guy from the Chris Pronger trade - you know, the first one. But now, he's become a solid defensive defensemen in Edmonton. I asked Derek Blasutti from Copper & Blue some questions about the Czech native (hey, two in a row!), and here is the result.
Me: Smid seems to be one of the most unheralded defensemen in the NHL, partially because he's not particularly flashy. Would you consider him a true top-4 defenseman? And what is it that he does so well?
Derek: He's definitely a top 4 defenseman on most teams in the NHL. Smid is your prototypical defensive defenseman though. He's a very good skater and he does a good job defending against the cycle. You usually don't see him getting caught up the ice and he makes pretty good decisions with the puck. He'd work well with a puck moving partner who likes to jump up into the rush as Smid does a good job reading those situations and adjusting defensively so they have someone back. He's fearless in terms of getting into the shooting lanes, but he gets a little bit shot block happy and can sometimes get out of position trying to block shots. He also has a habit of dropping to his knees and stomach in non-desperation situations which leaves him out of position (this is really the only time he gets into trouble in his own end). He also doesn't provide much offense, and while he's adequate handling the puck, he often relies on his partner for the actual puck moving.
Me: I know that many have come out in favor of the Oilers resigning him. Do you agree that this is the best course of action? And what is your sense of what Tambellini will do with him?
Derek: With the state of the Oilers blueline and the complete lack of options this summer, the Oilers pretty much have to sign Smid, provided it's in the $4mil/season range or lower. The Oilers lack of depth, and the lack of any real UFA alternatives, have pretty much put the ball in Smid's court. I think even Steve Tambellini has to see how much trouble the Oilers are in if they move Smid without getting a replacement either in return or in another trade.
Me: If he were to be put on the block, what would it take for a team (like the Habs) to acquire him?
Derek: It honestly depends. If Smid is asking for the moon (say $4.5+ over 4 years), I'd be inclined to trade him. The Oilers need him, or someone capable of those minutes, so maybe a swap like the Oilers made last year (Schultz for Gilbert) where they trade types of defensemen might work, but I don't see anything that fits that bill in Montreal. Assuming Smid wants the moon and the Canadians are the only suitor, maybe we are talking a Jarred Tinordi (who is basically a 21 year old Smid). The Oilers have a bunch of young defensemen coming through their system, so anyone less than that probably isn't worth it. A draft pick doesn't help the Oilers at all, and the other young defensemen in the Habs system (aside from Beaulieu) like Pateryn, Ellis and Corbin are duplicated in the Oilers system. Tinordi represents a guy who is almost NHL ready and I don't think the Oilers can settle for less... they would be better off keeping Smid and using the extra weeks to negotiate.
Thank you to Derek for those answers.
So Smid would do well with a puck-moving defenseman. Doesn't exactly shout "Francis Bouillon defense partner" does it. He plays 20:09 per game, including primary minutes killing penalties. The possession numbers aren't particularly flattering, but for a defensive defenseman that's not really surprising.
The biggest issue here is obviously whether he prices himself out of Edmonton's range, and Tambellini decides to deal him. If so, then the issue becomes how much it'll cost to get him. As Derek says, a draft pick isn't likely to interest the Oilers at this point, so it would have to be a near NHL-ready guy like a Tinordi. Even then, they might not bite. Smid is an interesting option if available, but the assets might not be there to acquire him. What does everybody think?