Free Agents: Ryan Smyth, Edmonton Oilers

Ryan Smyth’s return to the Edmonton Oilers basically took place in three parts. At the start, fans in Edmonton were thrilled when the rumours first surfaced, more thrilled when they realized the cost for Smyth was just Colin Fraser and a seventh round pick. Early in 2011-12 Smyth flourished, scoring 12 times in his first 25 games with the team, and the jubilation persisted. Unfortunately, the scoring disappeared in December and never returned, raising questions about his future with the team.

2011-12 Cap Hit: 6.25 million.

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Position: Left wing.

How the coach used him: Smyth saw some of the toughest competition on the team, often being used in a hard-checking line alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Jones. He also had a slight weighting towards defensive zone starts as one of the few wingers on the team coach Tom Renney leaned on in those situations. He played 14:26/game at even-strength, 2:28/game on the power play and 2:09/game on the penalty kill.

How he fared: Smyth managed to hang around the middle of the pack in terms of shots against on the Oilers. Given that the Oilers finished in 29th, it perhaps isn’t surprising that this means he was heavily outshot, but he did stem the bleeding more than other roster options did and he was being deployed in a tough role. His even-strength scoring number (1.93 PTS/60) was good overall, though it’s important to know that’s a compromise between a stellar start to the year and an ice-cold finish. His 5-on-4 scoring rate (2.39 PTS/60) was the lowest of any power play regular in Edmonton and a big drop from the year prior.

What McKeen’s says: “[A] fearless, energetic warrior with underrated puck skills .. bit of a graceless, one-speed skater having lost some pace with age .. absorbs cruel punishment around the crease… makes smart, poised plays under pressure and wins board battles .. determined, well-rounded leader whose value goes beyond goals and points .. provides a steadying influence on his teammates .. the mileage is rapidly piling up however…”

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My take: Smyth’s primary value is that he’s an all-purpose NHL veteran who can play on any line and in any situation and be relied upon to generally do the right thing. As McKeen’s points out, however, the effects of aging combined with the abuse taken over 18 NHL seasons are starting to add up, and his offensive contribution has dropped off noticeably from earlier in his career.

Smyth isn’t the sort of player who should be counted on in a key offensive role at this stage in his career, and he’d probably benefit from a few less minutes and less difficult assignments too.

With that said, the tank isn’t empty and Smyth can still contribute. He does win battles, he does provide solid two-way play, and a career of fighting battles in front of the net and along the boards have made him more than capable in the corners – both of coming out with the puck and defending himself from physical damage. Smyth doesn’t hesitate to get the elbows up if the situation calls for it, and as a result it doesn’t seem like he ever really gets belted.

Smyth can still provide value on a two-way line and would probably get a huge boost from playing on a secondary scoring line, but his days of playing power-vs.-power should be behind him.

Key statistic: Smyth scored just four power play goals in 2011-12; in six previous post-lockout seasons he’d averaged 11 per season.

Other Free Agents

  • Rocknrolla

    Sign Him!

    He’s your insurance policy on any injuries in the top 6. Get him back on the PP, and he will score 30 next year. Manage his minutes.

    Remember, the leadership, and lessons about commitment, Oilers passion, and being a guy who actually played with Weight, Arnott, Ranford, CuJo, that type of leadership you cant put a $$ on.

    We have the money, spend it on the leader. Especially if he can play 2 years, next year he will show the kids what it takes to sacrifice your face by taking a shot to get into the playoffs, and then in year 2 you need that veteran leader to keep your playoff team focused. Otherwise we will get swept 4-0, just cause its our first dance.

    Captain Canada, Olympics, WC, World Cup, Who else would you rather have in the room teaching these guys about what it means to be an oiler. I would even say that going forward after he retires, Smitty should be brought back as that PK/Bucky coach, who can continue to influence the kids.

    The only other guys like him, when it comes to bleeding oil are Mess, Gretz, Coffey….Sign Him!

  • Rocknrolla

    If Smyth comes back for 1 year at 2.5 or 2 years and 2 a year I am ok with it but if not I think that money would be better spend elsewhere, Smyth has lost a step and who knows how he starts in September if he starts the way he ended and continues to regress then the 2 year contract looks terrible as well.

    The Oilers aren’t treating Smyth disrespectful because they gave him a contract that fits his role, they aren’t overpaying which is something we should all be happy about. I have no doubt that the Oilers could find a SMyth replacement in FA and like someone said David Jones might be had for that kind of money 2.5-3 for 3 years or so to play 3rd line LW.

    If Smyth wants 3 and Paajarvi takes his spot and does well then they lose no production and save about 2 mill in cap space that they could use to give a slight overpay to a player that we need IE a defenseman.

  • Rocknrolla

    Everyone says what does it say about the Oilers not offering Smyth more because he has had a great Oiler career, but flip that and what does it say about Smyth right now that he won’t take 2 MILLION dollars (Where he has made over 6 for how many years) and a guaranteed 2 years to play with an up and coming team that will need the money next year. Cant fault him for wanting more money if thats what he wishes, just as you can’t fault the Oilers for not giving him more money.

  • TwoSkidoos

    I don’t care, but I do care paying a player what they’re worth, not overpaying.

    If you get 2 or even 4 players making 500K more than what they’re worth, that adds up to another bottom 6 player on the roster, or even more importantly, having the ability to pay a crucial player the extra 500K or 1 mill.

  • RexLibris

    I would re-sign Smyth to JW’s suggested contract. One year, $3 million. Basically, Smyth could act as a kind of “snooze button” for Paajarvi and Hamilton’s development. Not ready yet? Give Smyth some more ice time until they are.

    Just as a side note, contrast the discussion we are having on Smyth’s re-signing on this thread with the kind of angst and division that Flames fans are having weighing Iginla’s future with the team heading into his last contract year.

    There is no way that Smyth means as much to the Oilers right now as Iginla does to the Flames, and we already tore that band-aid off a few years ago. Still, to my mind, the single biggest difference in how Oiler fans are contemplating letting Smyth walk on July 1st is that we have another set of core players upon which to heap our expectations.

  • RexLibris

    Very versatile player, that bleeds blue! Injuries and asset management as a result mean we will need players like this.

    If we do not sign this guy we will have another PR nightmare, that will signal to all the UFA’s not to come to Edmonton! Players covet organizations that show some degree of loyalty.

    • RexLibris

      I’d take the bad PR over paying him 3mill over 3 years and being stuck with a bad hockey player any day of the week.

      Does SMyth have a place on the team? Yes. On the 3rd line, where he could move up if needed what makes Ryan Smyth THAT much more valuable say Jones?

  • RexLibris

    Christ all mighty how many millions does this guy need?2 million a year not enough for ya Ryan?2 friggin bad raise your family somewhere else then.Anyone with one nut and half an arsehole know if u take a paycut now you got a job with the orgaization for life.The greed is Pizzing me off.