Despite conflicting reports, Kings and Oilers have talked about deal centering around Ryan Smyth

Reports this evening broke from TSN’s Bob McKenzie that Los Angeles Kings veteran left winger Ryan Smyth has requested to be traded back to the team where it all started for him—the Edmonton Oilers. The story certainly has the drama to get attention: former 6th overall pick and Alberta native comes back home to finish out his storied career. Once in a while, we have to use the BS detector. When trade rumors are too good to be true, they usually are. Only in this case, it sounds like there could be something to story.

If the story were only that simple.

Upon hearing news, Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal contacted Smyth to comment on the story. Apparently someone forgot to tell Ryan Smyth that he had requested a trade. Here was Smyth’s response:

“Holy Cow … I have no idea where that’s coming from. I have not asked for a trade.”

Ah, the drama! The intrigue! Clearly, someone isn’t telling the truth. After McKenzie stood behind his story and LA Kings Insider Rich Hammond confirmed that trade talks had taken place between the two teams, Helene Elliott not only confirmed McKenzie’s story, but provided the motivation for Smyth to request a trade as well:

“A person with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to comment publicly confirmed that Smyth, citing his family’s best interests and preference for the city where he began his career, had his agent talk to Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi about a trade. Lombardi discussed scenarios with the Oilers but talks have dragged.”

Lombardi confirmed he had spoken to Smyth. “But I would like to keep those discussions private,” Lombardi said Monday.”

Let’s recap the story to this point: At first it was on. Then it was denied. Then it was confirmed to be on. But now that it’s been confirmed, the talks have started to drag. Got it? Good.

Despite questions about the return for Smyth, the deal makes sense for the Oilers the same way it made sense for the Kings two years ago. Two years ago, the Kings needed some veteran leadership to go with their stable of promising young talent. They had plenty of salary cap space and most other teams, had a place for a perennial 50 point scorer. Fast forward two seasons and it’s a similar situation for the Edmonton Oilers. They have a ton of young talent, but very few veterans who would be considered true “leaders.” That’s not a knock on Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Whitney, or Ales Hemsky—they just don’t have as much experience as a guy like Smyth. After all, none of them are nicknamed “Captain Canada.”

To see the trade from the Kings perspective, it takes a little more creativity. The Kings are running short on top 6 forwards; if they’re thin anywhere on their roster, it’s at left wing. In two seasons with the Kings, the 35-year-old Smyth has racked up 45 goals and 55 assists for an even 100 points. He scores on the power play, plays 18 minutes per game, and provides leadership for a roster that is still one of the youngest in the league.

For the Kings, the deal makes much more sense on the financial ledger. Smyth will make $4.5 million next season, but his cap hit is $6.25 million. If they were to go after a big name free agent next season (Hammond suggests Brad Richards), they could use the cap space much more than the money. If they were to go after an expensive free agent or wanted to make room for Brayden Schenn on the top two lines, then clearly Smyth’s contract would be the ideal one to move.

As for the assets returning to southern California in exchange for Smyth, that’s not quite as simple. Matheson explains:

“Neither the Oilers nor the Kings is talking about the Smyth trade rumour. The Oilers can’t comment on another team’s player because it would be tampering. The Kings went after Smyth, who waived his no-trade clause in Colorado, to agree to the deal with Los Angeles in 2009. If they dealt him now, they would have to get a top-six player back, in a perfect world.

However, the Oilers are not trading any of their high-end young guys — Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi — up front or any of their top prospects like Martin Marancin, Jeff Petry or Anton Lander.

Ales Hemsky has been the subject of many trade stories because his contract is up in July of 2102. Sam Gagner’s name has also come up because, if they draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall, maybe there wouldn’t be room for the 21-year-old centre. They aren’t giving up a bundle for a 35-year-old, even one as popular as Smyth.”

For now, trade talks have slowed and nothing is imminent. But as the draft approaches, there’s no doubt that Dean Lombardi and Steve Tambellini will certainly cross paths again in the next few days. If anything breaks, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.