In Craig Smith, Bruins might have found the steal of this top-heavy free agent class

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

He may not draw the same headlines as some of the other wingers available in this top-heavy crop of free agents, but Craig Smith very well could be the steal of the 2020 offseason.

The Bruins, a team in desperate need of scoring depth (especially at 5v5 play), signed Smith to a three-year contract Saturday morning, worth an average annual value of $3.1 million. Smith, 31, skated in 69 games with the Nashville Predators in 2019-20, recording 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points with a plus-18 rating.

"Obviously, there’s different things that we looked at and with our options, we looked at obviously, the team, the organization, the people that we’d be working with," Smith said of what factored into the decision to sign with Boston. "The city has a big part to do with it. My wife is in love with Boston and I’ve always had a soft side for it so that definitely checked it. Those were two of the big boxes that we wanted to check and definitely checked them off, so we’re excited."

His baseline numbers are enough to appeal to even those who are likely underwhelmed with the signing— at least with more noteworthy middle-six options like Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov still out on the market.  After all, Smith has tallied at least 20 goals in five of his nine seasons in the NHL.  Since entering the league in 2011-12, Smith was the leader in games played and ranked second in goals and third in points among Nashville Predators.

On paper, Smith stands as a great addition to Boston's middle-six grouping — especially if slotted into a third-line role (his usual spot with the Predators) next to a puck-possession force like Charlie Coyle.

As we noted a few weeks back, Smith's value (especially when factoring in the lack of term and agreeable AAV) on this Bruins club would already be justified given the expected production you'd find in most regular statbooks (20+ goals, 15-17 minutes ATOI, regular PK/PP shifts). But you take a deeper dive at the numbers, and — especially for $3.1 million a year — Boston has added a veteran that, at a minimum, gives you a viable top-six weapon, and a potentially devastating trigger man next to Coyle.