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Smith placed on waivers by Rangers

Defenseman has eight points in 44 games after signing four-year, $17.4 million contract with New York

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Defenseman Brendan Smith was placed on waivers by the New York Rangers on Thursday.

Smith, who turned 29 Thursday, signed a four-year, $17.4 million contract ($4.35 million average annual value) with New York on June 29 and has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 44 games this season. Smith was not claimed by another NHL team and was sent to Hartford, the Rangers' affiliate in the American Hockey League, on Friday.

"Everybody that's followed him since he's been here, there's no doubt that he has played better for us in the past and this year got off to a slow start," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We worked with him a number of different ways.

"At the end of the day this might be a little bit drastic here, but management and the coaches felt that this was the way to go for our team right now."

Smith has 79 points (17 goals, 62 assists) in 353 games in seven NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and Rangers. The Red Wings selected him with the No. 27 pick in the 2007 NHL Draft. New York acquired Smith in a trade with the Red Wings on Feb. 28, 2017, for a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

"Obviously we signed him and gave him a deal based on how he played and how he played when we scouted him before," New York general manager Jeff Gorton said. "Quite frankly, this year he's struggled. We've tried some different things. We've scratched him. We've done some different things with him to try to get him going and he just hasn't played that well. It's a move we decided we just had to make.

"Based on what we've seen in the past I think Brendan is a good player that can play physical that is a good skater, but really those elements haven't really been there this year. This is something that I think at this time it's best for him to go on waivers, see what happens and we'll go from there."

The Rangers called up 22-year-old defenseman Neal Pionk from Hartford. He could make his NHL debut when they play the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden on Friday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, SNW, NHL.TV).

New York (25-24-5) has lost four straight games and is 3-10-0 in its past 13. The Rangers are last in the Metropolitan Division, three points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, and Gorton said Thursday they plan to make moves for the future rather than this season leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26.

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