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.
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.