Thursday, June 28, 2007

Free Agency Matchmaker: Ryan Smyth

The start of free agency (July 1) is almost upon us, and to help shed some light on the subject, BMR brings you the fifth in a series of profiles chronicling this summer's free agent class. Next up is Edmonton's Long Island's Ryan Smyth.

One of the most talked about free agents this off season has been none other than Captain Canada, Ryan Smyth. If you're sober enough to remember February, you'll remember that Smyth was shipped from Edmonton to the New York Islanders in a trade deadline day blockbuster. Since he left town, the Oilers enjoyed a free fall ending to their season, all the while hoping to lure Smyth back home. There has been no end to the speculation regarding where Smyth will sign, and the further we get from February 26th, the more likely it seems that Smyth will sign elsewhere. Only time will tell. What we do know for sure is that Smyth will make a huge impact with whichever team can ink him.

It's hard to imagine Smyth playing in anything other than blue and orange -- whether it's in Edmonton or on Long Island.

Smyth is a leader, as he wore an 'A' for Edmonton this past season and plays with a serious passion for the game. There's absolutely no denying that he comes to play on a nightly basis.

This summer, he is hitting the free agent market for the first time at the age of 31. Without a doubt, he is the filet mignon of this year's free agent class, right up there with Scott Gomez, Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg and a host of others.

Much like Gomez, Smyth is a steady performer on the ice. He has scored between 61 and 68 points each of the past four seasons, with the highest total (68) coming this past season. Smyth's style of play is probably best described by TSN's scouting report; "Goes to the net with ample vigor and scores the majority of his goals due to supreme determination."

Of course, no profile of Smyth is complete without mentioning his love for the Oilers. He grew up in Banff, Alberta, which happens to be closer to Calgary than Edmonton, but he nonetheless bleeds blue and orange (the Oiler kind). Need proof? Look no further than Smyth's farewell press conference after being traded in February.

And of course who can forget Knob Hockey's hidden camera in the Oiler's dressing room during their 2006 playoff run...

Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match...
(in no particular order)
  • New York Islanders: The Islanders like Ryan Smyth. A lot. Everything coming out of Long Island these days gives the indication that the Islanders are doing everything they can to keep Smyth on the Island, even if that means parting ways with Jason Blake. The team seems to be willing to shell out the big bucks to keep him there, but if money doesn't tempt Smyth, then he will be looking elsewhere. If there's one player that might not be swayed by an American Dollar, it's this guy. Nonetheless, the Islanders will probably be able to put together something very tempting to Smyth, whether that means a large sum or a long term deal. They did it with Yashin and DiPietro, and there's no reason to believe owner Charles Wang will stop now... All that being said, the Islanders would make Smyth the face of the franchise if he re-signs, which is exactly what he was for the Oilers.
  • Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers are the hometown team, and are trying to regain a player that played with them for 12 seasons and was originally drafted by the organization back in 1994. Sending Smyth to Long Island at the deadline was completely unexpected, and gave him a pretty good shock. It'll be interesting to see how much that hurts their chances of signing him. Do they get a hometown advantage and/or discount, or are they paying full price? One thing is for sure, they are not going to go down without a fight. Smyth was the face of the team, not to mention provided a whole lot of other intangibles, and is a mighty big figure in the city of Edmonton. Even if they burned a bridge or two by sending Smyth across the continent, they still have a hell of a chance to sign him.
  • Calgary Flames: There have been rumors around the internets that the Islanders and Flames were on the verge of a deal that would send Smyth to Calgary, similar to the Timonen/Hartnell trade. Let's just put this one to bed right now. If Smyth is as much of an Oiler as he seems to be, he would never sign with Calgary. I'm sure the Flames know this, and there's no way they would trade for the guy prior to July 1 if they felt they would not be able to sign him. Doing that would be silly. The numbers aren't right for the deal, either. The Flames have already committed about $35 million to next season, and have a good amount of free agents left to re-sign. They have got the room to sign a big name, but it would probably cost them a pretty penny to make Smyth a part of the team. Even if money isn't a huge factor for Smyth, there's no doubt it would take a little extra to get him to play for Edmonton's rival.
  • Everyone else: There are a number of teams out there that can offer Smyth some serious cash. Off the top of my head, Colorado, San Jose, the Rangers, Philadelphia and St. Louis all come to mind. They are all the teams that are going to be trying to make a splash this July, and there are probably others out there that I didn't mention. The reason that I lump them all together is that there is no one team from the aforementioned group that, I think, would appeal to Smyth more than any of the others. All of these teams are hoping that Smyth goes to the highest better, or that the location/talent level of their team sets them apart from the crowd.
If you put a gun to my head and made me choose a destination for Smyth: This decision is a tough nut to crack. In my mind, there are two teams that stand head and shoulders above the rest. I hope I'm wrong about this, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Smyth will sign back in Edmonton. All we keep hearing from Edmonton is how badly Kevin Lowe wants to make a splash, in any capacity, and how much the team means to Smyth. The two parties have had some problems with contracts in the past (in the latest instance, it's rumored that the team traded him in February, since no contract could be agreed upon prior to the trade deadline), but I think they'll find a way to work things out.

For fuck's sake and all that is Bobby Nystrom, I hope I'm wrong. I'm starting the campaign right here and now; Please Ryan, stay on Long Island.

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