San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Six

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.

On his third team in three years, Bonino has ‘found a home for sure’ in Pittsburgh

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PITTSBURGH — In Anaheim, Nick Bonino was good, but not quite good enough to be the Ducks’ second-line center. So two summers ago he was traded to Vancouver as part of a package for Ryan Kesler.

In Vancouver, Bonino had one decent enough season, but the Canucks ultimately decided he wasn’t the kind of “foundation piece” they were looking for. So last summer he was traded to Pittsburgh as part of a package for Brandon Sutter.

In Pittsburgh though?

In Pittsburgh, Nick Bonino is a playoff hero, verging on folk hero. The 28-year-old scored the winning goal in the final minutes of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. The chemistry he’s developed with linemates Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin has helped take the pressure off Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. It’s given the Penguins what they’ve needed for so many years.

“He’s had some huge goals in the playoffs, come up really big,” said teammate Matt Cullen. “Obviously playing in the middle of that line, he’s been huge for us all playoffs. It just brings another element of depth to our team.”

And if you think Cullen had nice things to say about Bonino, that was nothing compared to head coach Mike Sullivan.

“I think he’s a terrific player in every aspect of the game,” said Sullivan. “We use him in so many key situations, both offensively and defensively. I think he’s a guy that has a real high hockey IQ, sees the ice really well. He has real good hands. His awareness defensively I think, the use of his stick to take passing lanes away, it’s impressive.

“He’s brave. He blocks shots. He’s one of our better shot-blockers. He’s a good faceoff guy. He’s done so much for this team to help us get to this point. I don’t know what other praise I can shower on him right now. We think he’s a terrific player.”

Signed through next season, after which he can become an unrestricted free agent, Bonino was asked if he’s finally found a long-term home in Pittsburgh.

“I don’t know about long-term, you never know. Especially me, the last few summers,” he said.

“[But] I think I found a home for sure. I enjoy the guys, enjoy the team. Organization is first class. Definitely feels nice to be in the Cup final playing with these two guys. It’s been a lot of fun for me.”

Despite rough start, the Sharks ‘know we’re going to get better’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates after scoring a third period goal against Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — It’s only been one game of the Stanley Cup Final and the San Jose Sharks are already tired of hearing about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ speed.

“It’s an NHL team,” said defenseman Brent Burns. “They’re fast. So is St. Louis. It’s not like St. Louis has got boots on.”

“They’re a good rush team, they’ve got some speed, they make some plays,” captain Joe Pavelski grudgingly conceded. “I don’t know, those teams we’ve played before are pretty good. I think Nashville was probably one of the better rush teams that we saw.”

In other words, the Penguins’ speed was no big deal. Nothing new. Nothing to panic about. The Sharks can play better than they showed in Game 1, a 3-2 loss that wasn’t decided until the final few minutes.

“They definitely came out with some speed and were skating, created some chances,” said Pavelski. “But we helped that out along the way, too.”

After getting outshot 15-4 and outscored 2-0 in the first period, the Sharks fought back in the second. They cut down the turnovers, outshot the Penguins 13-8, and tied the game.

“They carried the first, obviously. We carried the second I think, and then the third was two good teams going at it,” said Burns, calling the opening 20 minutes a “Holy [expletive] we’re here” experience for a San Jose group that has never been this far in the playoffs.

“You make the Stanley Cup finals, you dream about it for a long time,” he said. “You probably used more energy the last couple of days thinking about it than playing in a game. … I think we’ll be better second game.”

Head coach Pete DeBoer agreed.

“They’re a fast team,” he said. “They dictated play in the first. I thought when we played our game in the second, they had trouble with us. It’s the first game of the series. It reminds me a lot of St. Louis Game 1. I know we’re going to get better. Our execution’s got to get better. Part of it was some of the pressure they put on, but part of it was self-inflicted.”

He added, “There’s nothing that I saw tonight that I’m going out of here thinking that we can’t come out and compete and play much better on our end.”

Sullivan calls it a ‘blindside hit to the head,’ but Marleau doesn’t think suspension’s coming

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PITTSBURGH — It didn’t take long for the first controversial incident of the Stanley Cup Final.

Patrick Marleau‘s illegal check to the head on Bryan Rust — one that earned Marleau a minor penalty, and forced Rust to exit the game — left Rust day-to-day with an upper-body injury, per Pens head coach Mike Sullivan.

When asked what he thought of the hit, Sullivan was blunt.

“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

Marleau wasn’t saying much about the incident following the game, but did suggest he wasn’t expecting supplemental discipline:

“I just tried to keep everything down,” Marleau added. “I didn’t want to get too high on him.”

It’ll be interesting to see what transpires. There hasn’t been a suspension in the Stanley Cup Final since Vancouver’s Aaron Rome was given a four-game ban for his massive hit on Boston forward Nathan Horton.

Marleau has no history with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

It should be mentioned the DoPS has been fairly active this spring, handing down five suspensions, including a pair of three-gamers to Brooks Orpik and Brayden Schenn.

Bonino scores late, role guys star again as Pens take Game 1

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PITTSBURGH — If this playoff run has proven anything, it’s that the Penguins are more than Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Tonight only reaffirmed it.

Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Nick Bonino did all the scoring on Monday, with Bonino’s late marker the winner as Pittsburgh defeated San Jose 3-2 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Bonino’s goal, his fourth of the playoffs, came with just over two minutes remaining, capping off a quality opener in which both teams carried play for long stretches.

Rust and Sheary punctuated a dominant opening period for the Penguins — they out-shot the Sharks 15-4 — but the Sharks replied with a stellar second frame, equalizing on goals from Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau.

That set the stage for a dramatic third, and the Bonino goal.

That he, Rust and Sheary did the scoring for Pittsburgh was fitting. There’d been plenty of talk heading into this series about role players coming up large, to the point where the American Hockey League sent out a press release noting that 23 of 25 Penguins that’ve played in the playoffs thus far came through the AHL, highlighting the “big four” from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: Rust, Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Murray.

Rust etched himself into Pittsburgh lore in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over the Lightning.

Murray’s exploits are pretty well-known. The 22-year-old was remarkably solid after regaining the starter’s net from Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 6 of the ECF, stopping 44 of 47 shots over the final two games of the series.

He was good again on Monday, with 24 saves on 26 shots.

Sheary, the diminutive speedster, scored his third goal of the playoffs tonight. Kuhnhackl tied a team high with eight hits.

As such, Pittsburgh has to be thrilled about how tonight went. They held up home ice and got contributions from across the board — the only downer has to be the health of Rust, who twice exited the contest after taking a hit to the head from Marleau.

As for the Sharks… well, this one will sting a bit. The club did remarkably well to rally from a two-goal deficit and carried play in the second period, but can’t be pleased.

They were beaten in the possession game and out-shot badly (41-26), things head coach Peter DeBoer wanted to control against Pittsburgh, a team he considers the fastest in the league.

That said, there are positives moving forward. Martin Jones was outstanding in his Stanley Cup Final debut, with 38 saves on 41 shots, and there’s still a chance to get the split on Wednesday night.

Of course, to do that, the Sharks will have to figure out how to slow down Pittsburgh’s role players.