April 03 2013 11:32AM
According to multiple reports, the Edmonton Oilers have acquired centre Jerred Smithson from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a fourth-round draft picks.
Smithson is in the final year of a two-season deal with an annual cap hit of $800,000; he will be an unrestricted free agent upon the conclusion of his current contract. The 34-year old veteran has played 578 career regular season games and spent the bulk of his career with the Nashville Predators before joining the Panthers in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick near the 2012 trade deadline.
Smithson's virtues as a player are defensive; he's never scored 30 points at any level over a 13-year professional career and never hit 40 points in junior. What he does bring is defensive acumen, size (listed at 6'3", 209 pounds), and a physical game. Despite his willingness to hit one thing he isn't is a fighter; he hasn't had a fighting major since 2009-10. He has won 54.8% of his faceoffs this season, and (importantly) is a right-handed shot - giving the Oilers a reliable right-handed option for defensive zone draws, something they haven't had this season. He was also a regular penalty-killer with the Panthers.
The timing of the deal is interesting. The Oilers recently recalled Anton Lander, giving them a fourth centre and a player who could fill in for Eric Belanger, who has been injured for much of the year. Oilers analyst Bob Stauffer reports that Edmonton had Smithson on the radar earlier in the year when injuries were mounting; it seems odd that the deal wasn't consumated at that time. A month ago, even a small trade like this would have been a god-send; now it's far less urgent. Regardless, the addition does strengthen Edmonton's depth, and if it (as seems likely) results in the demotion of Lander to Oklahoma it will provide the Oilers' farm team with a valuable piece in their own playoff push.
Also interesting is the fact that the Oilers dealt a draft pick rather than a prospect. By my count, this brings the number of contracts in the Oilers organization to 53, with three of those (Oscar Klefbom, David Musil and Travis Ewanyk) not counting against the 50-man limit this season. A fourth-round pick is not a particularly dear asset, but moving a comparable prospect - perhaps a player like Curtis Hamilton or Tyler Pitlick - or packaging a bad minor-league contract (such as Cameron Abney's) would have given the Oilers more flexibility.
As for Smithson himself, he isn't likely to have much of an impact. In an average hour of 5-on-5 play this year, the Panthers have been out-shot 28-to-21 with Smithson on the ice, even worse than the 32-to-31 they're typically out-shot with him off the ice. Smithson's teams have been regularly out-shot by large amounts with him on the ice the last few years, but this season was particularly bad because in Nashville Smithson generally started two shifts in his own end for every offensive zone shift he played; this year the split has been almost 50/50. He's probably best used as a reserve forward than as a regular member of the top-12, though Edmonton's centre depth chart likely means he slots in on the fourth line as soon as he joins the team, something likely to happen during their California road trip.
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