Reunited after all: Kings reportedly send Ryan Smyth back to the Oilers

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For a little while, it seemed like the Calgary Flames were primed to steal Ryan Smyth from underneath the Edmonton Oilers’ noses. Now it seems like the Flames just did the Los Angeles Kings a favor by pumping up his trade value.

Various sources report that the Kings will send Smyth back to his beloved Edmonton for Gilbert Brule (semi-decent center, friend of U2’s Bono) and a fourth round draft pick. Smyth played his first 11 and a half seasons with the Oilers franchise, becoming a very popular player during his days with the team. (Note: it hasn’t been made official yet, so not that it isn’t a sure thing.)

The benefits for both teams

First things first, the Oilers avoided a PR disaster by keeping Smyth from Calgary. Oilers fans loved Smyth so seeing him play for the Flames would be a bitter pill to swallow. Smyth also brings some solid skill (at least 22 goals in each of the last three seasons), a willingness to go into tough areas of the ice to score points and gobs of veteran leadership. The Oilers are a young team so they could benefit from having a well-respected and experienced player steering their newbies in the right direction.

That being said, the Kings are the big picture winners of this deal. The No. 1 reason is money-related: Smyth’s $6.2 million salary cap hit is simply out of step with his production (47 points in 82 games last season). Brule is yet another example of a disappointing Columbus Blue Jackets first round pick – they drafted him sixth overall in 2005 – but there’s hope he can turn things around since he’s only 24 years old.

The fourth round pick is a nice throw-in to the deal, especially if the Oilers continue to struggle.

The minuses for both teams

For all the good that comes for the Kings, it does require them to take a slight step back in the short term. Smyth wasn’t a world-beater on their first line, but there were some nice flourishes during his time with Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar. Los Angeles is now strong at center with Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Kopitar down the middle, but the one area of concern might be on the wings. Losing Smyth and Wayne Simmonds means that the Kings might need to (gulp) count on more from Dustin Penner.

The Oilers are overpaying for Smyth’s services both from a bottom line standpoint (again, that $6.2 million is a beast) and by paying a bit more in terms of what they gave up. That being said, Edmonton remains a bit less than $7 million under the salary cap floor so cost probably doesn’t matter much.

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In the grand scheme of things, both teams benefit. The Kings get a big chunk of cap space to go after an extra forward or two while the Oilers bring back a popular player who can still play but most importantly can help their youngsters. Each franchise has been busy during the last few days (the Oilers made Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the first pick and the Kings added Mike Richards), so we’ll see if anything else interesting happens for these two busy organizations.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.