Nashville Predators announced they extended bottom-six left winger Cole Smith to a one-year, one-way contract through the 2023-24 season for $775,000 on Monday. Smith was to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Most importantly for Smith, his extension is a one-way contract; therefore, in 2023-24, he will be subject to waivers if sent to the AHL. For some, that isn’t much to talk about, but for Smith, 27 and currently on a two-way contract, it’s a step in the right direction to becoming an NHL regular in the future.
The former Steinbach Piston of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) played two seasons in Manitoba (2014-15 & 2015-16) before going to the University of North Dakota, where he played four seasons (2016-2020).
The 27-year-old from Brainerd, Minnesota native, joined the Nashville Predators as an undrafted free agent in 2020. After spending the majority of the past two seasons in the AHL. Smith, who came into the 2022-23 season with just nine NHL games under his belt, earned a roster spot after a strong preseason. Since then, he’s become an everyday player in Nashville head coach John Hynes’s lineup as a bottom-six winger and defensive/penalty-killing specialist.
Smith has 11 points (2G, 9A) in 42 games this season. Smiths’ 112 hits and 43 penalty minutes trail only Tanner Jeannot among Predators forwards, despite playing fewer than 12 minutes a night.
It’s easy to see why Smith has the subject of criticism for Nashville fans who are looking for more scorers and playmakers to help the Predators make it back to the NHL postseason in 2023-24 after what looked like a bounce-back campaign in 2022-23 for the franchise.
After beating out one of the club’s top prospects in the preseason Philip Tomasino for a bottom-6 forward spot in the Predators lineup, Tomasino has spent the entire season with Milwaukee Admirals in the American Hockey League. General Manager David Poile also waived Eeli Tolvanen, later claimed by the Seattle Kraken, and has since found a scoring role on the west coast.
Let’s be honest, though. Cole Smith doesn’t play the same role as Tomasino or Tolvanen should. They are two players who need to find top-6 forward positions, whereas Smith is a bottom-6 forward on an NHL team.
With a 24-18-6 record, Nashville currently sits three points out of wildcard spot-2 in the Western Conference behind the 2022 Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche.
At this point in the season, minor signings such as Cole Smith will only get the fan base more curious about the plans leading up to the March 3 NHL Trade Deadline. Smith’s signing is highly unlikely a lead up to much. Still, Predator fans can only hope GM David Poile has something up his sleeve to ignite the Nashville Predators into a playoff spot this spring.