It appears Nashville Predators general manager Barry Trotz has the same knack for signing lineup-staple players to team-friendly contracts as his predecessor, David Poile.
The Predators announced they signed forward Cole Smith to a two-year, $2 million contract on Wednesday morning, making the 28-year-old winger one of just four forwards under contract beyond the 2024 season. Filip Forsberg, Ryan O’Reilly and Colton Sissons are the others.
“He’s a really big part of our team (and) I think our team identity of being relentless and fast and on pucks,” head coach Andrew Brunette said. “I’m really happy for him. He deserves it, it’s a great story and hopefully this is just a step in many more coming up.”
Added Smith: “Nashville just kind of feels like home and I’m extremely happy to be here for another two years. … It definitely means a lot (that the team wanted me back). You can always get the one year (contract), but the extra year — the two years — means a lot that the organization has faith in you and that can go a long way.”
Smith fought tooth and nail to get into the Predators nightly lineup. He signed with the team as an undrafted free agent out of the University of North Dakota in 2020, right at the start of the COVID pandemic.
He had a brief stint in the ECHL with the Florida Everblades before being sent to the AHL to fine-tune his game.
He played for the Chicago Wolves/Milwaukee Admirals split-squad during the 2020-21 season, battling with some of the top prospects from the Predators and Carolina Hurricanes farm systems for playing time. Smith then spent 59 games with the Admirals the following season before getting an eight-game look in Nashville.
“It’s extremely rewarding; I’m proud of the journey I took to get here,” Smith added.
In his fourth season with the Predators, and just his second as a full-time NHLer, Smith is having the best year of his career in Brunette’s new offensive system, and his game is bearing fruit.
Smith has already set a new career high with five goals, and he’s just one point away from matching his career best (17), set last season. He’s also averaging 45 seconds more per game this year than he did last year, and he leads all Predators forwards in hits (118) and penalty minutes (33).
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