Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bringin’ Smytty Back?

After back-to-back last place finishes, the Edmonton Oilers will (barring any earth-shattering wheeling & dealing) once again be stepping to the podium before anyone else at the NHL Entry Draft on Friday.

Last year, they nabbed sniper Taylor Hall with the first overall pick. This year, it looks like it’ll be Red Deer Rebels playmaker Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. That leaves the Oilers stacked to the brim with young talent, especially up front, but maybe lacking the guidance of a few veteran players to help steer the ship.

Enter: Ryan Smyth?

Seemingly out of nowhere on Monday night, rumors started to circulate that Smyth had spoken to the LA Kings about a trade back to the team that drafted him in 1994. TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first to report the story, saying a deal “certainly isn’t imminent,” but that “both organizations are well aware of the existing situation.”

When contacted by theJournal's Jim Matheson, Smyth denied asking for a trade, saying, “I have no idea where that’s coming from.” Case closed, right? Far from it!

The LA Times' Helene Elliott spoke to her sources and found out that Smyth apparently had his agent talk to the Kings about a trade, with Edmonton being his preference for family reasons. Here’s the kicker: Kings GM Dean Lombardi confirmed to Elliott that discussions have taken place with Smyth, but he won’t say anything more than that.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about why this would be a great move for the Edmonton Oilers:

Every young, talented group of players needs a strong veteran presence around the rink. At 35, Smyth is playing that very role with the Kings and is actually still an important part of the team’s offence too, putting up 23 goals and 47 points in 82 games last season, while averaging just over 18 minutes per game (third among LA forwards).

The Oil have some veteran players on the roster at the moment, like Shawn Horcoff and Jason Strudwick, but neither player is in the same class of veteran as Ryan Smyth.

Further to that, when you think about players who have made a lasting mark on the city in the past decade, there is probably no one more prominent than “Captain Canada” himself. The guy had four 30+ goal seasons as a member of the Oilers, and there may not have been a pretty one in the bunch…but he always managed to (and still manages to) put the puck in the net.

That perform-at-all-costs attitude could be invaluable to a team with an average age sitting in the mid-twenties, looking to forge an identity after two 30th place seasons.

Smyth is in the final year of a contract that has a cap hit of $6.5-million, but if a deal were to happen, that wouldn’t be an issue as the Oilers have plenty of cap space coming into this season. They might have to give up a few pieces to get Smyth, but don’t expect them to trade away any key players to make it happen. Reports say the Kings will be one of the teams looking to make a run at Brad Richards when July 1st hits, so they might just be happy to get rid of Smyth’s contract when it comes down to it.

Here’s the deal: if the Edmonton Oilers are going to turn things around, they’re going to need some vets around the rink to help the younger players reach their potential. At the end of the day, there is probably no one better suited to do that on this team than Ryan Smyth.

If he’s available, the Oilers have to go for it.

What do you think: Would you like to see Smyth pulling on an Oilers sweater once again?

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