NASHVILLE – Jerred Smithson was a long-time Nashville Predator who was liked and respected by teammates and members of the coaching staff alike.
So when Nashville traded him to Florida on Friday for a sixth-round pick, it was not an easy move.
Smithson, a solid two-way forward who was strong on faceoffs and a good penalty killer, scored what coach Barry Trotz called arguably the biggest goal in franchise history last year in overtime in Game 5 of the first round at Anaheim, setting Nashville up for its first series-clinching win in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena.
Trotz was the second member of the organization to speak to Smithson on Friday night after general manager David Poile informed him of the trade. Trotz said it was a “tough” phone call and that he was at a loss for words, saying Smithson was “one of my favorites.”
Smithson, 33, in his seventh season with Nashville, was held out of the lineup four times since the Predators claimed a younger faster forward with more potential offensive upside in Brandon Yip. Trotz also said that the development of young players like Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, Craig Smith and Gabriel Bourque increasingly took over Smithson’s former role.
Smithson had only one goal and four assists in 53 games. He entered the season with 35 goals and 46 assists in 444 games for Nashville.
“It was difficult in the sense that Jerred brought a lot to the locker room,” Trotz said. “The stats, if you look at stats, they’re really for losers. He brings a lot of intangibles to the group -- character guy. Real pro, one of the better faceoff guys in the game, with him also he probably hasn’t had the year he was expecting and maybe he was expecting. Not to diminish anything he’s done. Not to diminish anything he’s done. He’s done a lot for us.”
Trotz hinted that it was a potentially unhealthy situation, having a player so well respected sitting out on a regular basis, saying, “One thing you don’t want is a player you highly respect and you know has contributed in a lot of different ways to not be a part of it.”
Smithson and Predators captain Shea Weber were roommates on the road. Weber was the third person to speak to Smithson after the deal. He said it was hard to see Smithson sitting out.
“Yeah, yeah, he’s such a character guy, someone who means so much in the locker room, a veteran presence especially where we’re so young,” Weber said. “It was tough to see.”
Right wing Jordin Tootoo played on the same line as Smithson and sat next to him in the Preds’ dressing room.
“He’ll be greatly missed in the dressing room but at the same time it’s part of business,” said Tootoo, who also spoke to Smithson after he was dealt. “… As a person, he was a very comical guy.”…
Right wing Patric Hornqvist will return to the lineup after missing five games with what the team called an upper-body injury.
Here is the projected lineup for the Predators:
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher-Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling-Jordin Tootoo
Matt Halischuk - Craig Smith-Brandon Yip
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Hal Gill
Out: Jack Hillen