In the 2021-22 Player Review series, we will evaluate the 2021-22 performances of each key member of the Golden Knights. Players were evaluated based on overall performance in the regular season with regard to pre-season expectations and how that player performed in his particular role.
Reilly Smith battled injuries over the past two seasons and now finds himself an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) for a seemingly cash-strapped Golden Knights club. His value to the team is immeasurable, but that value will need to be measured to determine his future. As one of just five remaining Golden Knights from the inaugural roster, Smith’s status as a long-tenured alternate captain and now UFA put GM Kelly McCrimmon in an extremely peculiar position. There are reports that the two sides have a verbal agreement on a new contract, so it will be interesting to see where things ultimately end up.
Season In Review
Responsible two-way players that can contribute at both ends of the ice can put a club over the top. Few players around the league embrace that profile more than Smith. He is a mainstay on both the Power Play and Penalty Kill and is a perennial 25-25 threat.
At 31-years-old his experience, demeanor, and leadership have proven beneficial to each of the previous five versions of the Vegas Golden Knights. Each club has had its own evolving identity, with Smith firmly entrenched in the leadership group. That familiarity is particularly important to this franchise, as they have one of the most revolving doors in the NHL.
With the team missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, Smith finished his season on the LTIR (knee). It was widely assumed he would be ready for a potential playoff start, but it just never came to fruition. He went scoreless over 16:17 of work in his last game of the season, a March 8 home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Prior to his injury, the top-six right winger compiled 16 goals – 22 assists – 38 points in the books, over 56 games played. Each of the four values represented improvements over the 2020-21 season, a down year that saw him post a career-low 25 points. He played a well-rounded game pre-injury, largely with “the Misfit line” alongside Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson.
With 55 games lost over the past two seasons, Smith will be looking to bounce back to his typical levels of production and reliability. A bolstered top-six forward corps (see Jack Eichel) paired with a return to form for the Misfit line could signal big things for the Golden Knights next season.
As aforementioned, the alternate now finds himself in a situation where he’s reportedly returning to the team. He certainly provided great return on his most recent and reasonable $25 million over five years deal.
If healthy, Smith could reassert himself as a valuable 200-foot player with scoring touch. Betting on himself and staying in a familiar place could reasonably lead to a bigger extension down the road or an even more lucrative UFA offer from another club.
His success with and importance to the Golden Knights speaks for itself. He has worn a captain’s letter on his chest from Day One and he does it all on the ice. Smith returning for a sixth season appears to have been a priority for the club, and the recent departure (via trade) of Evgenii Dadonov and his $5 million cap hit and some roster finessing will prove to make that a reality.
Knights on Ice Grade: B-
How would you grade Reilly Smith’s 2021-22 campaign?