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Badgers Hockey Alum Extends 13-year NHL Career in Free Agency



Wisconsin Badgers mascot Bucky Badger
Dec 29, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers mascot Bucky Badger plays around on the court before the game with the Illinois State Redbirds at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers hockey program has a long history of producing NHL players. Twelve of the 26 players on UW’s 2023-24 roster were NHL Draft picks. This past season, 14 former Badgers played in the NHL, with nine advancing to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now, one of those nine is extending his pro career to a 14th season with a new team. The deal may result in him suiting up for a game in Wisconsin.

Former Badgers Hockey Defenseman Signs One-Year Deal with Chicago Blackhawks

Wisconsin Badgers mascot

Dec 3, 2018; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers mascot Bucky Badger entertains the fans during the game with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Craig Smith signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. The forward projects as a veteran depth-piece to bolster Chicago’s bottom two lines.  In the 2023-24 season, Smith recorded 11 goals and nine assists in 75 games with the Dallas Stars Stars. He added two assists in 14 playoff games before Dallas fell to the Edmonton Oilers in six games in the Western Conference Final.

Smith is entering his 14th NHL season. The Nashville Predators selected him in the 2009 NHL Draft ahead of his first season with the Wisconsin Badgers hockey team. The now 34-year-old spent nine seasons in Nashville before signing a three-year contract with the Boston Bruins in 2020. The Bruins later traded the six-foot-one-inch, 203-pound veteran to the Washington Capitals before the 2023 NHL trade deadline. Smith recorded five goals and one assist in 22 games with the Capitols before signing a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars last offseason.

The Chicago Blackhawks will play a preseason game in Wisconsin this fall. On October 5th, Fiserv Forum will host a preseason exhibition between Chicago and the St. Louis Blues. This will be the second time Fiserv Forum has held an NHL game. In 2022, it held a preseason game between Chicago and the Minnesota Wild. Fiserv Forum also hosts the annual Kwik Trip Holiday Face-Off college hockey tournament.

Craig Smith Returns Closer to Home, Signs with Chicago Blackhawks

Wisconsin Badgers mascot Bucky Badgers

Nov 19, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Bucky Badger reacts after a play by the Wisconsin Badgers during the third quarter against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Smith was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. He played high school hockey for two years at Madison La Follette High School, where he recorded 101 points in 40 games before joining the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL. He returned to Madison in 2009 to join the Badgers hockey program under head coach Mike Eaves.

The defender impressed in his two seasons with the Badgers before signing with the Predators. Smith recorded 76 points in 82 games in Madison. In his freshman year, Wisconsin advanced to the 2010 national championship game before falling to Boston College 5-0.

Mike Hastings is Chris McIntosh’s Luke Fickell of College Hockey

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BadgerNotes' resident college basketball sicko, Kedrick Stumbris covers Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball and women's hockey teams unlike anyone else. He received his B.A. with economics and political science majors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 and has had his work published on Bleacher Report and Verbal Commits.