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.