It took a couple days for it to happen, but Edmonton Oilers can finally rejoice/breathe a sigh of relief: Ryan Smith will indeed return to their team. The deal itself is a little bit different than expected, though; instead of costing the Oilers Gilbert Brule and a fourth round pick, the Kings receive Colin Fraser and Edmonton’s 2012 seventh round pick in the trade.
Previous reports indicate that Brule’s health issues were holding up the trade, but there was a sense that it was a matter of time before the two sides would work something out.
From the Oilers perspective: Oilers fans love Smyth and Smyth loved Edmonton. That much was clear when Smyth cried during the press conference to announce the trade that sent him from Edmonton to the New York Islanders during the 2006-07 season. Smyth played his best hockey as a member of the Oilers, including a career-high 70-point season in 00-01.
Beyond Smyth’s solid offensive production, Edmonton benefits from his leadership and experience. This Oilers team is full of young players so Smyth could “show them the ropes.”
From the Kings perspective: Of course, the problem with Smyth is his price tag: he’s in the final year of a deal that produces a $6.25 million salary cap hit. That’s not a big deal for the Oilers – they still need to spend a bit more than $5 million to get to the salary cap floor and his actual salary will be $4.5 million next season – but it was a significant consideration for Los Angeles.
If Brule and a fourth round pick really was the original asking price, then the Kings received a lesser package two days later. Dropping from a fourth round pick to a seventh rounder is the most obvious downgrade, but Fraser doesn’t have the same ceiling as Brule.
Fraser’s career high in points so far is 19 (09-10 with Chicago) while Brule scored 37 for Edmonton in 09-10. Fraser was a third round pick (69th overall in 2003 by Philadelphia) while Brule was yet another ill-fated first round draft pick by Columbus (sixth overall in 2005). Much like Nikita Filatov and Nikolay Zherdev, Brule has been a pretty big disappointment in his still-young career, so the Kings probably didn’t lose that much.
It’s also possible that Fraser might be a better fit for the Kings’ system since his defensive game is more mature. Ultimately, the on-ice assets Los Angeles received are far less important than the salary cap relief generated from getting rid of Smyth.
In the grand scheme of things, both teams benefited. The Oilers regained their beloved rugged forward while the Kings saved a ton of dough. Honestly, there might be a third team that benefits: the Calgary Flames. By losing out on the Smyth sweepstakes, the Flames avoided another bad contract in a litany of foolish deals. It looks like this will be one of those deals in which everyone wins.