NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Pittsburgh Penguins made the exact type of move president of hockey operations Kyle Dubas predicted when they acquired Vegas Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith Wednesday.
Dubas suggested the Penguins were looking for players who were being squeezed out of their current teams by salary-cap constraints. Before trading Smith, the Golden Knights were projected to have only $3.4 million of cap space, with Adin Hill and Ivan Barbashev hitting unrestricted free agency.
Uodate: Shortly after the trade, Vegas announced they signed Barbashev to a five-year deal.
The move would seem to buttress the Penguins’ middle-six. Smith, 32, has two years remaining on a three-year contract which carries a $5 million cap hit. There is no indication that Vegas will retain salary.
The Penguins gave up a 2024 third-round pick, which they acquired from Vegas for Teddy Blueger at the NHL trade deadline.
The move seems to indicate that winger Jason Zucker, who is a pending UFA, will not return to the team. Zucker made $5.5 million last season, which makes the Smith acquisition a slight savings. Last season, Zucker skated almost exclusively beside Evgeni Malkin on the Penguins’ second line.
Update: Dubas and coach Mike Sullivan said the Penguins continue to speak with Zucker about a new contract.
The Penguins have about $15 million of salary cap space remaining. The Golden Knights are up to over $8 million. They’re reportedly set to sign Hill to a two-year contract with a $4.9 million average annual value.
Last season, Smith won the Stanley Cup with Vegas. He primarily skated in a middle-six role, but posted a robust 56 points, with 26 goals in 78 games. Smith is known for his two-way game and defensive responsibility, with ample offense. He plays on both special teams, killing penalties and working on the power play. He is 6-foot-1, 182 pounds and excelled in the Vegas transition game and on the rush.
Smith was one of the remaining original six Misfits with the Vegas Golden Knights, who went to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.
Smith has played parts of 12 seasons in the NHL, split between the Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, and Vegas. He has appeared in 764 regular-season games with 473 points (200-273-473). He also has 106 games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience, with 26 goals, 53 assists, 79 points, and is plus-36.
He played collegiately at the University of Miami of Ohio.