All week leading up to July 1, we’ll be profiling unrestricted free agents and speculating where they might end up.
Ryan Smyth (LW)
2011-12 cap hit: $6.25 million
Smyth is one of this summer’s most intriguing cases. After forcing a deal to Edmonton last summer, he famously stated “I bleed Oiler blue” — suggesting he was primed to finish his career in Oil Country.
Now he’s just days away from hitting the open market.
Compounding the matter is Smyth’s lack of leverage. Everybody knows Edmonton is where he wants to be and he’s on the downside of his career — 46 points in 2011-12 was his lowest total in four years.
It’s also hard to see how he’d fit on an Oilers team featuring Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Alex Hemsky up front.
Well, it’s actually easy to see the fit. It’s on the third line.
And that brings up the question of money.
What would Edmonton pay a 36-year-old third liner? Many have pointed Milan Hedjuk’s deal with Colorado (one year, $2 million) as a comparable, which would be great for the Oilers but less so for Smyth, given it’s a pay cut of over $4 million.
Of course, Edmonton knows Symth wants to stay.
In the end, stubbornness may prevail. Smyth can probably find suitors — Detroit could use his net-front presence if Tomas Holmstrom retires, Rangers GM Glen Sather has always been a fan — or the Oilers could just walk away and accept the public relations backlash.
Holmstrom, 39, told the paper he’s spoken to Wings GM Ken Holland and that the organization is “going to decide [in the] beginning of July what’s going to happen.”
As the Free Press’ Helene St. James points out, Holmstrom’s words seem to indicate that if the Wings want him back, he’d be open to returning. There was much speculation he, like recently-retired teammate Nicklas Lidstrom, would ride off into the sunset this offseason and call it a career.
But it appears that might not be the case.
More, from St. James:
The Wings want to add a top-six forward via free agency, and could decide some of their own players, like Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak, don’t fit into the future. Regarding Holmstrom, both sides have the luxury to see what happens in early July, then go from there.
Wings head coach Mike Babcock said at the end of the season that if he’s to return, Holmstrom’s role would be primarily as a power play specialist and a fourth-line forward.
PHT Morning Skate: The Stanley Cup celebration hangover edition
As we previously reported, the Washington Capitals have no intention of re-signing Mike Knuble. That’s unfortunate for the soon-to-be 40-year-old forward, but it’s not surprising.
Knuble’s stock has fallen significantly over the last season, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to hang up his skates.
“I definitely want to play,” Knuble said. “I’ve been pretty adamant about that the last little bit. The biggest thing is how you feel physically and I feel great. Mentally, I can definitely go through another season. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the focus of it. As for the team, I guess you kind of have to wait and see what happens. The money won’t be significant, relatively speaking, nor will the term. So you can decide what will be best for you and your family going forward.”
If Knuble had his choice of teams, there’s a good chance he’d be playing for the Detroit Red Wings next season.
“Detroit would be a neat story since I was drafted there,” Knuble said. “I’ll make no secret about that. That would be a nice way to come back around.”
Detroit might be hesitant to take on Knuble seeing as they aren’t really hurting for depth forwards. As it is, they might decline to re-sign Tomas Holmstrom even if he decides that he wants to play in 2012-13.
Still, Knuble might still have a bit left in the tank and it wouldn’t be surprising if someone decided to take a chance on him.
Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom are good friends. They’ve both spent their entire careers with the Detroit Red Wings and they were both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this summer. However, Lidstrom has announced his retirement and now the question is if Holmstrom will do the same.
“Some days I feel like yes (I’ll return), and some days no, and some days it’s just aches and pain,” said Holmstrom.
The situation with Holmstrom is significantly different than it was with Lidstrom. Holmstrom was never a superstar and he’s not coming off of a strong season. In fact, he got just 24 points in 74 games last season while averaging 11:52 minutes per contest. Additionally, even if Holmstrom wants to return, there’s a chance that there might not still be a spot for him in their lineup.
Still, losing Holmstrom on top of Lidstrom could make the transition even harder from a veteran leadership perspective. Holmstrom has won the Stanley Cup four times and is tied for 34th among NHL players with 180 playoff games played.