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

    Another area of concern should be the amount of information that has been leaked in the 1st Ryan Smyth deal (Brule) and the 2nd one (Fraser). This kind of information should be held in the same manner as anyone’s Doctor/Patient confidentiality.
    No wonder Tambo is upset that these things are making it into the media!

  • BTW, how are we always running into these questionable medical evaluations? Wasn’t that part of the staff already cleaned out a couple years ago? BTW, I agree with I walk amok’s take on handling this screw up (if it indeed was even us that screwed up)

  • I tried it at home

    Up until I read this article, I was still basking in the happy glow of the Marchant Retirement Nostalgia Happy Hour, then it all came crashing back to the ongoing “if its the Oilers, its a gong show” crap *Apologies and credit to Bank Shot* The Oilers used to mean something, we could take pride in the whole Little Team that Tried Hard, now its the NeverEnding Story of Egos, Arguments, and oh yeah, Last Place Finishes. If, and I say IF, Fraser was cleared to play by the Oilers when he wasnt ready (Souray mentioned something about this, pre-Hershey, remember) FIRE the medical staff. If that happened AND Tambo knew about it, FIRE teh medical staff and HIM. If the kings are simply trying to drama thier way out of a silly deal, then hey, beers on me. But enough of the finger pointing and dramatics, can we take some pride in cheering for an organisation where someone in charge stands up and says “The buck stops here.” And then lives up to it.

  • Wax Man Riley

    For anyone saying that ST is classless.. ok, I have no idea, maybe he is… but switch it around…

    Lombardi trades a player to EDM that can’t play due to injury, but trade is a done deal. ST haters will say he got hosed and that he is an idiot.

    Well… if Lombardi didn’t look into his return … who is to blame?

  • Fraser’s foot is going to be re-evaluated. The Oilers medical staff cleared him to play. I’m not a big fan of Tambellini at all, but I can’t see how the Fraser situation is his fault, from what I’ve been reading. Sounds like a lot of hot air from a guy that’s probably still choked about Penner sucking the big one. The Brule situation might be a different story though. I know he has a medical issue of some sort (note: not “injury”), but not sure if thats what the kerfuffle was about.

    Holy, Ericsson just got a payday. Not of Ehrhoffian proportions, but 3 years at $3.25M per seems a bit much to me.

  • Wax Man Riley

    I have a hard time believing that ST was dishonest about Fraser. It is one of those things that you can’t get away with. If the guy is injured, you know the other team is going to find out. I’m sure there is a process for this.

    Either Lombardi is an idiot for not looking into the details of the trade, or someone is blowing this thing way out of proportion.

    I’m sure there is some sort of paperwork that must be done to state the health of a player during trade.

    • book¡e

      There is paperwork and one of the statements that is sometimes made is that Player A has injuries, medical records are available and the player comes ‘as is’ (seriously, yep, its the same language that people put on auto bill of sales). The agreement between the Kings and Oilers regarding Fraser has this phrase.

      Lombardi is just sad that he gave up a year of Smyth, Teubert, Klefbom, and a third round pick for a year of Penner and a broken Fraser.

      When you read it like that, I understand why he is a bit sad…

  • SurfacetoAirMissile

    Well good luck attracting free agents ever. Their move with LA is pretty low in regards to both Fraser and Brule, and this is after the Souray debacle last season.

    Tambo has become the most classless GM in the league, and this kinda garbage is sure to have concequences. OH GOODIE….

    • SurfacetoAirMissile

      AWWWWWWW…. nobody likes the poor down trodden Oilers! I’m sure this incident will destroy every relationship the organization has around the league!!! Boy am I glad the trade already happened or Smyty might change his mind once he finds out how classless Tambo is! Oh the concequences, I’m sure the Oilers brass are shaking in their boots. I will bet Heatly is glued to the T.V. right now thinking to himself, boy am I glad I didn’t sign in Edmonton because ST is darn classless!

    • book¡e

      Lombardi leaked Brule’s health issues that the Oilers managed to keep private for the whole year and you are finding fault with Tambellini – what’s wrong with you?

  • Ask Brule and Fraser and they’ll most likely tell you the they are/will be ready to play. Tambo was heard saying that Brule was fit to play. Dean lombardi has access to those medical records throught he NHL. Are you saying he read them and still took the player. NHL rules say you can trade an injured player. You just can’t by him out. Everything is upfront. Isn’t the onus on DL to ensure that the player he is getting is as advertised? So he knew and now is having second thoughts? Analog for you to ponder. You buy a car from the dealership. It comes with a inspection. Do you not check the inspection report before you plunk down your money? Really check? Fraser is a 850,000 contract. Seems cheap in todays NHL. But 850,000 is still alot of money. I would check the reports,maybe ask him to take a physical by my team doctor. DL looks like he has buyers remorse. He looks like a whiner to me.

    • PhillipSmithson

      The whole situation stinks. Oilers medical should of made sure everything was fine, if wasn’t then maybe other doctors need to be put on the payroll. Kings don’t look much better, if you are getting a player in a trade then make sure that player is up to snuff before agreeing to the trade. It is done all the time in other sports. “Trade to be completed upon medical review.”
      That being said, the continuing medical issues that have plagued the Oilers in the past few years are looking to be a problem with the team Doctor. There have been a serious of recurring injuries that keep happening, almost as though someone is not doing their due diligence in not clearing/clearing players. Renney has a nice system for returning injured players though, that has seemed to cure some of that problem.

  • Wax Man Riley

    WTF. Are the Kings nuts or has the sun been frying thier brains. Tambo shouldn’t have even commented on this “story”. Heck DL shouldn’t have said anyting publicly . DL looks really like a buffoon for not doing his homework. Cowboy up bucko, this is the NHL. This ain’t the minor leagues. If you don’t know the rules of the game by now you shouldn’t be playing with the other boys in the park. “So endeth the lesson”(Sean Connery,The Untouchables,1987)

    • Bank Shot

      That’s just nonsense.

      Foisting not one but two players who are not medically cleared to play on another team smacks of monumental incompetence.

      Who is the Oiler team doctor…Mr.Magoo?

  • @ Quicksilver/DSF:

    Yeah, the evening before a long weekend press conference is legendary.

    I’m not sure what Tambellini wants buried, though; he must be okay with the Smid story and nobody is going to ride him too hard on Souray. It must be this Fraser thing.

  • justDOit

    That’s bad news – I was really hoping for Shellie to get another year of riding the bus. Oh well.

    Maybe we should take back Fraser and make him head of the medical department. He’s been injured before, so he has experience, which sounds like more than our actual medical personnel have.

    Smid is still only 25, so I’m not that uncomfortable with his contract and glad to have him back. Hopefully ST will make good on his thoughts of getting some help for the back end.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’m always a little leery of these last moment pressers before a weekend. Was hoping to see Katz take the podium and let everyone know that Doug Weight was the Oilers new GM.

    • Skidplate

      Bad news (we’re not signing anyone), is almost always delivered late on the day before a weekend…even better on a long weekend since the media will provide very limited coverage (except for young radio superstars who have a passport and a mortgage).

      Ralph Klein perfected this pull the woold over their eyes strategy many years ago when he would take a flight from the Legislature in Edmonton to the government offices in Calgary (away from the media hounds at the Legislature) and make major bad news announcements at 5:00 pm on Friday afternoons.

      It appears Alan Watt was paying attention.

  • D'oh-ilers

    Tambi stated the Oilers medical staff had cleared Fraser to resume training by Wednesday. If it turns out the medical staff had cleared him and completely overlooked a significant injury to the player, it’s a cause for major concern. What else could they have missed with other players?

    If true, then there may be merit to Souray’s statements that ultimately got him thrown off the team.

    It’s an odd situation. Either the Oilers’ medical staff is inept and potentially putting players at much greater risk or LA are just crying over spilled milk. Either way, it’s another black eye for the organization.

  • The oilers were no doubt aware that the injury was more serious than they disclosed, they tried the same thing with Brule and got caught before now caught with Fraser afterward. This will ruin Lowe/Tambo’s reputation around the league and affect this club for many years to come. Someone needs to be held accountable for this.

    • Seriously....Gord?


      The player and agent have a role in this as well. It’s a 3 party transaction. If it was a medical issue why didn’t Fraser bring it up?

      Brule was held up by Brule’s agent, who smartly, was protecting his 1.8 million client. Knowing that LA would buy him out, the agent raised a red flag, and said the NHLPA would have to be involved in this if he is bought out. He’s fit enough to train, go to rock concerts etc. He was cleared by the Oil.

      This is a minor bump in the road. It’s not like Fraser is Brad Richards. LA still does well, and perhaps gets an additional pick (4-5 pick). I doubt Deno really is even upset.

  • O.C.

    Did DT even go to high school, let alone reporter’s school?

    Watching “Where in The World is Carmen Santiago” doesn’t qualify anyone with investigative reporting skills.

  • Bank Shot

    Why do the Oilers always have to be involved in at least one giant gong show every season??

    With the rate Oilers’ management is getting involved in conflicts they won’t have anyone left to deal with soon.