Updated June 28, 2023 - 7:33 pm
The grin stretched across Reilly Smith’s face as he grabbed the Stanley Cup from Mark Stone at T-Mobile Arena.
Smith, the Golden Knights’ longtime alternate captain, was the second player on the team to hoist hockey’s ultimate prize after Game 5 of the final June 13. It was also one of his final actions in a Knights’ uniform. He was traded 15 days later.
The Knights moved Smith to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2024 third-round pick Wednesday, regaining the selection they gave up for center Teddy Blueger at the trade deadline. It also opened up $5 million in salary-cap space for the team before the opening of free agency Saturday. The Knights used that room to sign left wing Ivan Barbashev to a five-year, $25 million extension.
“Our objective has been to try to keep as much of our roster together as we can,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said from the NHL draft in Nashville, Tennessee. “Unfortunately, to get there, we moved Reilly to Pittsburgh to facilitate some of the other moves that we want to make.”
Smith, 32, was one of six original Knights on the Cup-winning team. The right wing was acquired in an expansion draft trade with Florida and has been a fixture in the team’s top six since.
Smith’s 124 goals are the second-most in Knights history, and his 286 points are third-most. Beyond the scoring he provided, he was one of the most feared penalty killers in the NHL. His 12 short-handed goals the past six seasons are tied for the third-most in the league.
Smith’s commitment to both ends of the ice was one reason he wore an “A” on his sweater, as he set an example for other players to follow. That extended beyond the rink. Smith was the team’s nominee this season for the NHL’s community service award, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. He started a charity softball game called the “Battle for Vegas” in 2019 that has grown to include Knights and Raiders players squaring off to raise money for local organizations.
The event says it has raised more than $550,000 since its inception. This year’s game is scheduled to take place July 22 at Las Vegas Ballpark, with the proceeds benefiting the Vegas Golden Knights foundation.
Smith signed a three-year, $15 million extension with the team last summer that he negotiated himself. But the Knights have never let sentimental feelings stop them from making difficult decisions. Smith, 11 days after saying winning a Stanley Cup for Las Vegas was so special “I may just retire now” in a post-parade speech, joined Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Reaves and Nate Schmidt as fan favorites traded to free up flexibility for future moves.
Smith scored the Cup-clinching goal in Game 5 against Florida.
“We’re really excited to add Reilly to our roster,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, who added that the team has discussed playing Smith with 2012 Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin. “He brings so much with the versatility of his game.”
The Knights will visit the Penguins on Nov. 19 next season and host Pittsburgh on Jan. 20 at T-Mobile Arena.