BRIGHTON, MA – The Boston Bruins placed veteran winger Craig Smith on waivers on Sunday, but it sounds like he will not be going anywhere immediately should he clear through NHL waivers on Monday afternoon in a salary cap-motivated transaction.
Craig Smith had three shots on net and three takeaways in an active performance in a limited fourth line role in Saturday’s win over Columbus, and was skating in line rushes at Monday’s morning skate at Warrior with fourth line mates Nick Foligno and Tomas Nosek. Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery confirmed that the plan is for Smith to be in the B’s lineup on Monday night against the Florida Panthers provided he clears through waivers.
“The roster move is something we needed to do to safeguard any [salary] cap situations. All I know is working with Don Sweeney, when he says this is something that ‘we need to do’ I know that he’s done his homework and I listen to him thoroughly about anything like that,” said Montgomery. “With [Craig Smith], he played one of his best games of the year last game so we’re not expecting to make any changes to the lineup tonight [against the Panthers] but we have to be patient on that because of the waiver process.”
Basically, the Boston Bruins could send Smith to the minors at any point over the next 30 days once he’s cleared waivers, but it doesn’t sound like that’s in their immediate plans. They run the risk of losing Smith for nothing, of course, but any theoretical trades they would have been pursuing for him would have included either A) taking on another tough salary cap contract or B) giving away an asset so that an NHL team would take on Smith’s salary cap hit.
Smith is just one year removed from scoring 16 goals and 36 points for the Black and Gold, but that sure feels like a long time ago now as the winger’s game has slowed down a bit.
So why put the 34-year-old Smith on waivers now after he’s struggled with a goal and four points this season in 17 games and the Boston Bruins have tried unsuccessfully to move his $3.1 million salary cap hit this season? With the NHL holiday roster freeze coming up on Tuesday, the Boston Bruins had to make the waivers move prior to that in a possible paper transaction to theoretically loan Smith to the Providence Bruins and add a few days of salary cap savings around the Christmas holiday break.
The Bruins pulled a similar paper transaction with Mike Reilly a couple of months ago before eventually sending him to the AHL, where’s he’s posted a goal and six points in eight games this season since being sent down.
It also gives the Boston Bruins some salary cap flexibility over the next month should they be looking to call up anybody else from the AHL that would have otherwise strapped the cap-conscious B’s in a season where they have been bumping up against the salary cap ceiling despite building a 24-4-2 record that has them atop the league.