SMYTH FINALLY RETURNS HOME: Veteran left wing Ryan Smyth is finally back home after the Los Angeles Kings and the Edmonton Oilers were finally able to agree on a trade. Story includes details on the trade, along with commentary on the reaction to the deai. Did Smyth handle things the right way, or does he deserve to be criticized, or worse?
LOS ANGELES — After more than 24 hours of going back and forth between having a deal in place, and then not having one, again and again, veteran left wing Ryan Smyth, is, officially and finally, back with the Edmonton Oilers.
On June 26, the Kings sent the 35-year-old native of Banff, Alberta back to where he began his National Hockey League career in 1995-96, playing eleven seasons in an Oilers jersey.
As reported on June 25, the Kings and Oilers were believed to have wrapped up a deal that would have sent a fourth or fifth round draft pick, along with forward Gilbert Brule, to the Kings in exchange for Smyth. But that deal fell through because even though the Oilers claimed that Brule was healthy, they have not filed the paperwork with the league to certify that.
That would have left the Kings holding the bag, unable to move him off their roster and his salary off their salary cap (see Ryan Smyth Is Still With The Los Angeles Kings…For Now, Anyway).
In the completed deal, the Oilers sent forward Colin Fraser, 26, and a seventh round selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, to the Kings.
The 6-1, 193-pound native of Sicamous, British Columbia played in 67 games this season, scoring three goals and adding two assists for five points with sixty penalty minutes.
After being selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the third round (69th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on February 19, 2004, along with defenseman Jim Vandermeer, and a second round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (from the Kings; Chicago selected Bryan Bickell) for center Alexei Zhamnov and the Washington Capitals’ fourth round pick (previously acquired; Flyers chose R.J. Anderson) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Fraser played two full seasons with the Blackhawks in 2008-09, and 2009-10, when he scored seven goals and added twelve assists for 19 points, a +6 plus/minus rating and 44 penalty minutes, his best season in the NHL. Fraser won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks that season, but was traded to the Oilers on June 24, 2010, for a sixth round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
A checking line center, Fraser has scored 16 goals and has tallied 25 assists for 41 points with 168 penalty minutes in 224 regular season NHL games with the Oilers and Blackhawks. He also played in five playoff games with Chicago.
Fraser, who has one year remaining on his contract that will pay him $825,000 in 2011-12, will get a shot to make the Kings’ roster in training camp.
“Fraser is a real hard-nosed player,” Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi told the media on June 26. “He brings character to your room, and his price, in terms of salary, is certainly not prohibitive, so it’s very different than the player they were talking about the day before in terms of allowing us to fill Smitty’s hole [in the lineup].”
“He doesn’t fill Smitty’s hole, but it’s a serviceable player who doesn’t command anywhere near what the other guy did.”
Smyth, who scored 23 goals and added 24 assists for 47 points in 82 regular season games for the Kings this season, along with two goals and three assists for five points in six playoff games, was most valuable to the Kings for his leadership qualities.
Smyth scored 45 goals and added 55 assists for 100 points with 77 penalty minutes in 149 regular season games over the past two seasons with the Kings. In twelve playoff games with the Kings, he scored three goals and contributed four assists for seven points.
In 93 playoff games with the Kings, Oilers and Islanders, Smyth has scored 28 goals and has added 31 assists for 59 points with 88 penalty minutes.
Smyth was acquired by the Kings on July 3, 2009, from the Avalanche in exchange for defensemen Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing, and a fifth round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
During a media conference call, Smyth thanked Lombardi, assistant general manager Ron Hextall, and Kings ownership for honoring his request to be traded back to the Oilers. He also confirmed that he did indeed request a trade, even though he previously denied making such a request.
Smyth also added that his reasons for requesting the trade were solely for his family’s best interests.
“My wife and I discussed it for a while, that we wanted to come back to Canada, just for personal reasons,” Smyth explained. “The kids are starting school situations, so we thought it was best to come back.”
“My wife and I discussed it just after the end of the season,” Smyth elaborated. “I didn’t want everything to explode to the level it did six weeks before the actual trade. So yes, I did request this for family reasons. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my time down there [in Los Angeles]. It was just a different lifestyle for me and my wife to live in. I hope for nothing but the best for the Kings. The fans supported me well.”
Smyth’s departure removes $6.25 million from the Kings’ books. With the addition of Fraser’s $810,000 salary, that’s a net gain of $5.44 million in space under the salary cap Lombardi can use to bring in badly needed scoring talent up front.
“It’s safe to say that there’s a potential for a midrange move,” he said.
Smyth: Right Or Wrong? Professional Or Unprofessional?
“Making the Ryan Smyth deal was probably harder than making the Gretzky deal.”
Those were the words of Dean Lombardi, who was joking. But that comment might jog the memory of many Kings followers who remember back to the days when The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, wore a Kings jersey, leading the Kings to heights never before seen in Los Angeles.
But back in the 1995-96 season, just three years after the Gretzky-led Kings made their only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Kings were in disarray, with only a small handful of established, solid NHL-caliber players on the roster, surrounded by hacks and stone-handed plodders who had no business being anywhere near NHL ice.
About halfway through that season, Gretzky, who was in the twilight of his career, wanted to play for a winner and have to chance to win the Stanley Cup once more before retirement. He gave Kings owners an ultimatum…
…acquire a fifty-goal scorer and an offensive defenseman, or trade him (see 20 Years Since Wayne Gretzky Was Traded to Los Angeles, There Is One Little, Nagging Thing).
Gretzky made his demands public right from the start, immediately reducing his trade value to zero, which is exactly what the Kings ended up getting when they dealt him to the St. Louis Blues on February 27, 1996. In fact, the only player in that deal to become anything close to a significant contributor for the Kings was left wing Craig Johnson. But even he was pretty much a non-factor in the 429 regular season games he played for the Kings.
Being the greatest player ever to play the game, along with his contributions to the Kings, the Oilers, to the league and to the sport in general, spared Gretzky from being criticized for his actions in the media and by fans. Nevertheless, he deserved criticism for not doing it the right way…privately.
Fast forward to the present, and there has been a good amount of criticism being fired at Smyth for putting the Kings in exactly the same situation—reducing his own trade value drastically.
To be sure, in public forums across the Internet, some have launched some rather nasty invective in Smyth’s direction, accusing him of dishonesty, unprofessionalism, selfishness, and worse.
But does he really deserve that?
In a word, no.
Smyth has a hard-earned reputation for being a stand-up, character guy, and he was exactly that during his two seasons with the Kings. Despite his initial denial that he requested a trade, there has been no evidence to date that he, or his agent, were the ones who made the request public.
If he had done so, sure…that is the wrong way to do it. That would have been unprofessional and selfish. But again, there is no evidence suggesting that he was responsible for the request reaching the media.
Beyond that, many seem to have a problem with him wanting to return to Alberta due to “family reasons,” apparently, because he wants his kids to attend school there, rather than in Southern California.
Those of us who live in Southern California know that a child can get a good, solid education here, despite the fact that our public schools are under siege because of our faltering economy, and other challenges, but that’s for another story.
To be sure, this is the source of some of the outcry over Smyth’s decision. However, no one, not one single person, should be upset or angry about it from that perspective.
After all, only Smyth and his wife have the right to determine what is best for their family, especially when it comes to their children and their future. No one else does. That even goes for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Dean Lombardi, Edmonton Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini, President of the United States Barack Obama, and Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper.
It even goes for you and I. After all, what parent in their right mind would allow someone else to dictate to them what is best for their children?
You certainly wouldn’t, nor would I. Yet, that is exactly what some have done. Indeed, Smyth has been accused of being selfish and unprofessional because they believe his “family reasons” are ridiculous, unimportant, or perhaps, invalid or irrelevant.
Further, those making such accusations also seem to believe that the welfare of their team takes precedence over Smyth’s family’s needs.
By now, I hope that you, dear reader, already see the problems here. If not, let me spell it out.
First, there is the matter of respect and showing some class. As I said, no one outside of Smyth and his wife have the right to determine what is best for their family and, especially, their children. They apparently believe that their children will get a better education at the schools in Alberta that they have in mind. That decision must be respected and accepted. Again, this is their family, not yours or mine. It’s no one else’s call to make other than their own.
Second, there is the issue of how warped our thinking has become when it comes to how we view our favorite sports teams. Does the welfare of the team matter more than the welfare of a human being, or their families? Really?
Sadly, that appears to be the case in the minds of far too many people.
These are issues that everyone should take some time to think long and hard about, and remember…
It’s just a game, folks.
Frozen Royalty by Gann Matsuda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Frozen Royalty – Licensing and Copyright Information.