So it has become apparent that Ryan Smyth has expressed an interest in returning to Edmonton becoming the first guy since the Gretzky-era Oilers who actually wants to play in the “City of Champions.”
Instead of having the chance to win a Cup (even though the Kings may be dark horses), Smyth wants to return to Edmonton because he’d rather win a Cup for his hometown instead… OH, WAIT, I forgot that the Oilers won’t be even making the playoffs for at least another three years. This is why the news is such a shock to me, that Smyth would just throw away a chance to win the Cup after agreeing to let the Oilers send him to Long Island and then signing with the Avs and Kings. He’s only 35 years old and even with the wear and tear I can see him playing until he’s 37 or 38. Mike Knuble is 38 and he’s still playing. I guess for “Captain Canada” the thought of being able to finish his career in his home country was just too strong, although you have to wonder if the whole ordeal could be avoided if Smyth just signs with the Oilers once his current contract expires. Wouldn’t that be the best of both worlds? Have a shot at the Cup and then return home for a farewell skate? I don’t get it. Smells fishy.
If I’m Dean Lombardi, I’m kinda irked because I wish I could’ve known this sooner and even though I’m inclined to do as Smyth wishes, I’m certainly not obligated. If the Kings think keeping Smyth gives them a shot at winning, then this trade doesn’t happen. There’s really nothing on the Oilers’ roster that’s of immediate use to the Kings (MAYBE Shawn Horcoff or Ales Hemsky). Even those clamouring for Sheldon Souray will have to realize that the Kings have yet to re-sign Drew Doughty and already have plenty of cash tied up with four other regulars (JJ, Big Stick Willie, Scuderi, Greene).
Surly & Scribe, however, believe that it’s the best thing for the Oilers because Smyth’s $6.25 million cap hit is just too much and a thorn in Lombardi’s side. I disagree. With the cap at $64 million next year, the Kings have roughly $13 million (assume Brayden Schenn makes the roster) in cap space to re-sign Doughty, Wayne Simmonds, one more forward (probably bringing back Michal Handzus), and this is assuming Smyth stays. That’s more than enough to retain everybody. If there’s one contract that’s ugly, it’s Rob Scuderi‘s.
The Kings won’t be able to add an impact free agent but trust me when I say there’s really no UFA you want to commit $6 million per year long-term for, unless it is Zach Parise, who is a RFA and I doubt he’ll leave Jersey. The Kings were really hurt with no Anze Kopitar and we’re still not sure what this lineup can do when everyone’s healthy. (Translation: this team doesn’t need to do anything rash, like committing to a player long-term with lots of dollars to fill one need, like the Sens with Sergei Gonchar, who I’m sure would love to return to Pittsburgh.) However, if Surly & Scribe are right that Lombardi doesn’t want Smyth anymore, then I can’t see Lombardi limiting himself to Edmonton as an option. There are other teams that could use him. (Conspiracy theory: Lombardi wants Smyth out, lets everyone know that Smyth wants to return, Edmontonions rejoice because they love him and pressure Tambellini to acquire him, giving Lombardi slightly more leverage than he would’ve had.)
I also won’t go as far to say as the Kings have approached Smyth about retirement because this guy scored 9 powerplay goals last year. He can play. He’s not Chris Drury, who may really have to retire due to lingering injuries.
If I’m Steve Tambellini, I’m ecstatic because I get to acquire a forward on the cheap (hopefully, if Smyth really pushes for a trade), a hometown hero that will certainly spark a little more positive interest, a bit more size and grit on a team that’s physically small, and a vocal veteran in a very young locker room. Even if Smyth ends up with 10 goals and -20 for the Oilers, there’s still some inherent value by having him on the team. Unfortunately, Tambellini’s looking high-and-low at the Oiler offices for something with more value than a Bic pen.