Busy Day: Smid, Souray and Fraser (Updated)

‘Twas the day before free agency, and for the Oilers it was a busy one. First came news that the team had inked pending restricted free agent Ladislav Smid to a two-year contract. This was followed by the announcement that Sheldon Souray had been placed on unconditional waivers for the purposes of buying out his contract. Then we learned that Colin Fraser, freshly traded to Los Angeles in the Smyth deal, is seriously injured and will require surgery – leaving Kings’ G.M. Dean Lombardi miffed and a question mark on what happens next.

Steve Tambellini is slated to address these issues at a press conference any minute now.

I will of course be updating this post once Tambellini has made some comments, but there is no reason not to make some preliminary comments.

On the Smid deal, I’m not wild about the money – two years at $2.25 million per. According to Nhlnumbers.com, that makes him the 89th-highest paid defender under contract for next season, on par with Andrew Ference, Hal Gill and Joe Corvo. Given that he was a restricted free agent coming off a deal with a cap hit of $1.3 million, I would argue that the Oilers overpaid by a bit here for a guy who, at this moment in time, is a third pairing defenseman. Elsewhere, David Staples voices injury concerns, while Copper & Blue has a similar take to myself – he’s a good defenseman signed for a deal that was a little rich.

The Souray buyout has been coming for a long time, and is no surprise. The Oilers will have a $2.4 million cap hit next season, and $1.5 million in 2012-13.

On the Colin Fraser situation, I’d like to reserve comment until I hear the Oilers’ perspective. My initial thoughts were a) the Kings didn’t do their due diligence here and b) if the Oilers were aware of the injury, it’s an awfully low move. My suspicion is the Oilers were unaware of the severity of Fraser’s injury, but that there’s no sense in needlessly aggravating Lombardi when it probably won’t cost very much to make the Smyth deal right.


Neither Team 1260 or 630 CHED is carrying the press conference live, and it isn’t available on the Oilers’ site at this point in time, but the Oilers’ official Twitter feed is passing along select comments.

First off, Tambellini is mad that medical information is coming out. I can see where he’s coming from on Brule, but given that Fraser is now Kings’ property, this strikes me as less than especially relevant in the latter case.

Additionally, Tambellini is standing by the assessment of his medical people, who cleared Fraser to start training on Wednesday.  I’m not sure if that’s an indictment of the medical people, but at least Tambellini isn’t running out "caveat emptor" as a defense.

Awesome – Dan Tencer is just repeating the Tweets on 630 CHED without identifying where they’re coming from.  Word for word quotations, no less.

Tambellini wants to sign "a player or two" that adds "poise, experience and grit," but it sounds like he’ll be shopping in the bargain bin rather than making a splash on Day One.  He also suggested he might add a defenseman if there’s a fit that wants to play in Edmonton.

The Souray buyout was "last resort," so no surprises there.

Tambellini’s quote on Smid talks about his impact in the dressing room and how much he wants to be in Edmonton, but talks about how playing in the top-four is a "goal."  It’s good that Tambellini recognizes him as a third-pairing guy, but I’d like it better if he had managed to get the cap hit down one or two hundred grand.

Tambellini doesn’t need to argue caveat emptor; Dan Tencer is doing it for him, complaining that the Kings aren’t taking ownership of the Fraser injury, and calling the TSN reporters L.A.’s ‘official media crew.’  There’s a definite point here, but if the Oilers assured Los Angeles that Fraser was ready when in fact he was not, I don’t know that the blame is entirely on the Kings.

And it continues.  Tencer describes the trade as the Kings "being taken out behind the wood shed," blames some of the anger on how awful Dustin Penner was, and suggests that the Kings had no idea that Colin Fraser suffered an injury this season.  Maybe it’s just me, but knowing a player was hurt is completely different from knowing a player was hurt and now has to undergo major surgery.  To me, the crux of the matter is what exactly the Oilers guaranteed Los Angeles – if they said Fraser was ready to start training, then I think they have to wear some of this.  If not, this is on L.A.

If you want to beat Dan Tencer to the audio of the press conference, it can be found here.

Just listening to Tambellini now; he sounds like this is simply a difference between the Oilers’ assessment and the Kings’ assessment.  Ryan Rishaug (I think) asks a sharp question, requesting that Tambellini clarify, and again it sounds like the Oilers feel Fraser could play without the surgery, while L.A. views the surgery as essential.

Asked if the Oilers might offer Los Angeles additional compensation, Tambellini is clear: "Absolutely not."

Further on Souray, Tambellini says, "For whatever reason, it didn’t work out…"

Tambellini, asked whether Lombardi’s comments might hurt Edmonton’s reputation (which, in the words of the reporter asking, "has already taken a few knocks"): "Absolutely not.  We’re consistent, we’re open, and this organization has very high standards."

Tambellini acknowledges the need for a guy who can take defensive zone draws, but sounds pessimistic about the Oilers’ chances of landing such a player via free agency, suggesting that a move might come via trade later.

The Oilers see Smid as a player who could emerge as a first-rate shutdown guy; Tambellini twice keyed in on the quality of the opposition Smid might play against going forward.

That’s what I got out of the media availability session, and I find that my thoughts haven’t changed much from prior to it.  The Fraser situation seems a little fishy, and given the problems Edmonton has had with injuries (along with Souray’s rather emphatic comments on that point) I’m not entirely comfortable with the fact that the Oilers cleared him while the Kings feel he needs surgery.  The Souray buyout was expected and understandable, and while I’m still not overjoyed with the dollar figure Smid signed for it is nice to hear that the Oilers view him as a shutdown guy going forward.  What did everyone else think?

A couple of final notes: First off, Dan Tencer feels the quotes above unfairly portray his point of view, and that later in his show he presented the other side of the story.  I switched to the Tambellini press conference rather than continuing to listen to Tencer’s show, so that’s certainly possible and I would advise readers to remember that the Tencer points above are an incomplete listing of his thoughts on the subject – they were the initial reaction, nothing more.

Secondly, I don’t want people to read into my comments that I’m condemning Steve Tambellini – I’m not.  I don’t have enough information to know whether the Kings or Oilers doctors are correct, or if that is an area where competent professionals might disagree.  I do, however, view finding the answer as being quite important – either so the Oilers can address a problem on their staff, or so the team can move on with confidence in the judgement of their medical professionals.

  • PhillipSmithson


    1-2K is not consequential when you are talking about these numbers. Maybe to you and me, not to an NHL team, or future payments on contracts. I thought D took forever to develop, right?. Smid is a huge mobile defender who can pass the puck, hits and will fight, has some offensive ability. Perfect. Let him get a bit better, and if concussions are an issue, trade him.


    Bottom line is the Oilers keep having mud thrown at them. Do we hear this about other teams much?

    ST’s “fault” or not, it can’t keep happening. A bad rep is killer in a closed society like the NHL – ask Lowe.

    My take is Lombo set him up for trying to make him eat a contract. Smyth wanted to come to the Oilers, LA wanted to dump salary, ST got a vet productive player for nothing and tried to make Lombo eat a contract based on the situation.

    The misread there was no downside for LA keeping a good veteran player, despite salary. It’s not like he is Souray.

    It is an example of inexperience or incompetence on ST’s part. If he didn’t try to deal two hurt players it would have been muddied, but really two who couldn’t clear?

    Lombo set ST up for this to damage the Oiler’s ability to trade in the future as a payback for the insistence that he take a contract when the deal favoured the Oilers to begin with. And to discredit a (hopefully) serious rival and cause them problems trading for those last pieces when Hall beats all.

    Whether or not either player was cleared by Oiler meds is irrelevant. How about get LA meds to clear them? Mud thrown twice, ST and the Oilers look dodgy or incompetent, damage done.

    Or Lombo is a piece and ST should quit dealing with him.

    Grow up ST.

    • BarryS

      Clearly you prefer to take the rumours out of LA as truth. Funny LA has said nothing officially that I have read. Can it be because they know they have no leg to stand on (pun intended). The LA fans are up in arms and LA is doing the old diversion trick. Seems the Tambo haters are buying what LA is selling.

      As far dumping a contract along with a draft choice, no one forced LA to take the deal, they did not have to grant Ryan his request any more than the Oil did Pronger. The got what they could.

      Also EDM took their lumps in the Pronger trades, like pros, unlike LA, did their forced deals and got on with it.

      I was a GM, I would think twice about dealings with a team which likes to leak information to gain advantage without concern for any players involved. At least the Oil respects their players enough to keep unconsumated trades confidental.

      • This is an “interesting” post.

        With regards to your closing statement, did you see the Richards for Simmonds/Schenn trade coming? Not likely, since most other credible sports sources were surprised by it as well. Just sayin…….

  • BarryS

    What we have here is the classic case of dueling experts. Those here with a hate on Tambo believe the LA experts, those who believe Tambo believe the EDM experts.

    In the end all the rumours and inuendo come from the LA end which tells you something about which side is the most honest in these deals.

  • PhillipSmithson

    Boy, this type of news sure gets the amateur physicians away from their ER reruns for a bit. I don’t understand how any of us can be so sure of the diagnosis and proper treatment of an injury that none of us have seen, examined, x-rayed or consulted about. Trained orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists spend decades of their lives studying this stuff, and the truth is, as others have posted, there are disagreements and grey areas about treatment and risk of re-injury. I really don’t think ST wears this one – it smells a whole lot like Lombardi realizes he made a bad deal and wants to raise a stink the way KL wanted Mike Comrie to pay back some of his salary when he got cold feet trading him a few years back. DL is in full panic mode as his rebuild seems to be slipping away from him.

  • PhillipSmithson

    Lombardi should shut up by now and stop playing the bitter critter role.

    Who did the deal for Penner and got burned? Lombardi. Nobody forced him to do it.

    Who leaked the story that Smyth wanted out? Lombardi.

    Who leaked the trade talk with Calgary (that everyone knew was BS but was silently hoping Feaster would do to screw his cap situation further)? Lombardi.(BTW, how come the MSM did not jump on him for dirty dealing with that?)

    Who is using the LA media and the TSN lapdogs as mules on the Fraser story? Lombardi.

    If he knew that Fraser was injured going in, saw the medical reports, and did the deal “as is” there is no issue. He is using the medical staff to take the heat off of him for doing another bad deal that is getting questioned.

    Looking at the Richards deal, I wonder if he has been read the riot act by his owner? Remember, Lombardi’s track record is to build a good team, but not one that can win. Looks like he is worried that he is doing the same in LA.

    FWIW, it is nice to see that Tambi is not the biggest dupe of a GM in the league………….

  • Little Buttcheeks

    I can’t wait until the day that we are competitive once again. I hate how the media always sensationalizes this garbage and makes us look like the bad guys. Not saying that we are perfect or that we are not at all to blames for this mess but it just seems like no matter what we do, the media will find a way to make it sound like we screwed up again. Well they won’t be welcome on the bandwagon when we rise from the dead.

  • PhillipSmithson

    The signing of Smid is good. Hope he earns his cash.

    The Fraser situation is a bunch of useless news-filler. No one in the public needs to know about it. Does Fraser need surgery or doesn’t he? Its unfortunate if he does, some one should of caught that at his last doctor’s visit. But all his medical records would of been sent to the Kings prior to the trade. Those records would of been reviewed prior to the trade being put into the NHL offices for approval.

    Neither the Kings or the Oilers are being painted in a good light over this and the Brule trade leak. Pretty soon no team is going to want to trade with Edmonton or L.A. So they may as well shut up and stay friends because no one else is going to want to play with them any more.

  • PhillipSmithson

    What’s the possibility that the agents for one or both of the players that were traded to LA saw the writing on the wall that they were headed for a buyout and pulled the only card in the deck that would save their salary. By claiming injury, a player either attempts to nix a trade that would send them to a talent laden team where they will surely be bought out, or (maybe even better) they get to ride out the contract on the IR as they can’t be released and bought out. I know that this scenario is not very likely, but that’s the first thing that popped into my head when I heard of the Fraser sh!tshow following closely on the heels of the Brule sh!tshow.

    Hope Gilbert’s OK. He seems like a good dude and I have always enjoyed watching him.

  • Colin


    I say this to you but you are far from the only commentator who indulges in the practices noted below.

    What’s with the comments about the negotiated size of Smid’s deal? With all due respect that would be none of your freaking business, n’est pas?

    Is the money coming out of your pocket? I do think it is fair comment to mention his contract but talking like it is coming out of your pocket really sounds pretentious. Who died and made you arbiter of what these players should be paid? Everyone realizes that people who are in the entertainment business can make obscene amounts of money. I don’t hear you bitching about how much the head of Syncrude or Telus makes and then show the temerity to give your opinion of how they aren’t worthy of it. It’s like the value of your house Jon. It’s worth whatever someone will pay you for it. A contract for services rendered is the same. It’s whatever the market will bear.

    How would you feel if your cohorts went virial and started discussing with the world that you aren’t worthy of your weekly coin.

    Smid’s value to the team with the attendant pros and cons is fair territory. Saying he isn’t worth it is unfair. Name a professional athlete or performance artist who isn’t overpaid.

  • @ knobby:

    Money’s always an issue. Has been since the WHA days, from what I read, and through either small market ownership or the NHL salary cap it’s an issue that’s with us to stay.

    That makes every contract fair game for discussion. If you don’t like it, that doesn’t really matter. It’s part of the sports landscape.

    And people complain about the contracts CEO’s get all the time. I’d definitely be making comments about them if I were writing about business. I’m not; I’m writing about hockey and getting fair value is a critical skill for any general manager.

    So I’m going to keep having opinions on whether contracts are good investments for the team or not. Just like every other commentator out there, and 95% of NHL fans to boot.

  • MaestroFreshMess

    5.5 million per year for Wisniewski? Six years?!!? That’s it, I give up on this league. These owners do it to themselves and never seem to learn.

    Just ridiculous.