Cole Smith signs two-year, $2-million deal with Nashville Predators

Jan. 24—GRAND FORKS — Cole Smith is having the best season of his pro career.

He's being rewarded for it.

The former UND winger from Brainerd, Minn., has signed a two-year, $2-million deal with the Nashville Predators. The new contract will begin in 2024-25. Smith was set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

Smith has five goals and 16 points in 46 games for the Predators. His previous career highs were set last season — four goals and 17 points.

The new contract will be Smith's first multi-year deal at the pro level.

His first four contracts were all one-year deals.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound forward has now played 124 career NHL games, an uncommon feat for someone with his background.

After playing at the high school level, Smith was cut from a United States Hockey League team and ended up in Steinbach in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. The team's head coach was the best man in Smith's uncle's wedding, so he had a connect to land there.

Smith had just one Division-I college offer out of the MJHL. UND offered him a 20 percent scholarships.

Smith accepted it and continued to improve during his four years in Grand Forks.

He became a pivotal piece on UND's shutdown line alongside Gavin Hain and Mark Senden. In 2019-20, they helped the Fighting Hawks win the Penrose Cup and become the odds-on favorite to win the NCAA national championship until the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the season.

He signed with Nashville as a free agent in 2020.

Smith has scored nine goals and tallied 33 points at the NHL level.