When the Rangers acquired Brendan Smith on February 28th, 2017, they were looking to add some depth to their blueline for another playoff run. Smith made an immediate impact, bringing a physical edge to a line-up that was more a play-the-puck style team that a play-the-man.
His playoff performance and the threat of pending UFA status prompted the Rangers to offer him a four year deal at $4M per season, which seemed about fair market value for him at the time.
Coming into camp in his first full season as a Ranger, he was expected to be a regular on the blueline and probably a second pair guy. Turns out, those expectations and the contract were too optimistic, and before the end of the season, Smith found himself playing in Hartford and the Rangers were facing three more seasons of a guy who could not live up to his contract expectations.
To his credit, Smith didn't give up, and worked to fashion a role in the NHL by whatever means necessary. He played fourth line wing, filled in on defense and came to the rink with a "how can I help" attitude. He may not have the talent to play up to the $4M, but he'd show up as a leader who would do everything he could to help the team.
This was particularly evident in the waning days of his tenure with the Rangers, appearing in 48 of the 56 games played last season and took on the unenviable responsibility of challenging Tom Wilson in the return matchup with the Capitals following the Artemi Panarin incident.
Smith was a leader, he was a guy you could cheer for. Putting the effort out there every day and night and doing what he could. He was willing to stand up for his team mates, and play when called upon.
The chances of him returning were low already, and today we found out for certain he won't be back. He is not amongst the greatest to ever play on Broadway, but he has earned the respect of many of us.