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.

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…”

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

  • Time Travelling Sean


    Besides who else on the left wing can score 20 goals and play responsibly and leadership qualities, good room guy, gritty, plays in the corners OMG?

    1.5M for 20 goals is a huge discount like IMO 20 goals=3-4M not 1.5M.

    Sign him dammit.

  • Oilfan69

    I’m not familiar with the cap situation next year, but I’m under the impression we aren’t in trouble yet (maybe in a few more years?)

    So I really don’t understand the obsession with dollars. Who cares?? Its Katz’ money, why should we give one lick about contracts as long as they don’t hamstring the team (ie too long in term, or excessive in $). I don’t think anyone is suggesting long term or high dollars. So whats the point of obsession about how much Smyth makes.

    Fans get so obsessed about this guy not being good value for his contract or this guy making $500k too much etc. Even Willis joined in with his ‘buyout Khabi’ plan which saved the team zero dollars in cap space, and just padded Katz pocket. I couldn’t care less about Katz “real dollar savings”. In fact, I’d be happy if some money gets spread around and taken out of his pocket, he seems to have lots to go around.

    Its irrational.

    Make a decision if Smyth fits on this team. Is his leadership what they need? Does he have a solid role on one of the lines? Do the coaches like his intangibles, personality, character on and off the ice? Do the kids like him? Is it a good fit in the dressing room? I can’t answer these questions, but these are the decision factors. If he makes $2 mil or $2.25 mil or $2.5 mil or $3 mil is irrelevant. I really don’t understand how fans get so caught up in it. I realize salary is a tangible, measurable and emotional topic. Maybe we are in cap trouble, I don’t claim to be a cap expert, so correct me if I’m wrong (Again assuming Smyth signs max 2 years)

    I’m not pushing for Smyth one way or the other. But at least use some logical decision making when deciding if he should stay.

  • Mabell

    I have a real difficult time thinking Smyth is worth more than Todd Bertuzzi who resigned in Detroit for two years at $2.075/per.

    I have an issue if keeping Smyth creates ANY problems with the development of Paajarvi. Loved Smyth – but isn’t it time to move on?

    The real leadership of this team is emerging and its not the old gaurd – its the young guns. I’m not saying that they should have all the letters, etc. next year, but its not a good idea to keep older players around that create any problems to the young group taking hold of this team….If Smyth can accept a limited role, then by all means sign him to a reasonable contract. If not when then, best of luck to you.

    • Mabell

      Also Stauffer was stating yesterday that Smyth, without naming him but all the descriptors pointed to him, may not be as well liked in the dressing room as people think and may not be the leader in the dressing room that people think either. Tambo is set on building a team that wins and I have to give him credit he has stuck to his guns on a number of things. He might not be progressing as much as we would like but I do believe there is a method to his madness.

  • Oilfan69

    I wonder how the younger players perceive our treatment of Smyth (and to a lesser extent Renney). By dragging our feet on resigning a lifetime oiler like Smyth, why would Eberle, Hall, etc feel any desire to stay loyal to the Edmonton Oilers? I mean the price has to be right, but the oilers also need to protect their image. They are already fighting a perception that talented players dont want to play here.
    Smyth wants to play here, the Fans want him here…get this done. Also, they should let Renney go or resign him. This is some unprofessional BS that will not improve the image of the organization.

    • Mabell

      Tambo isn’t dragging his feet. He actually stated that an offer was made just prior to the trade deadline and it was a take it our leave offer because its the only one that works into their plan for the team and he left it in Smyth’s court to decide if he really wants to stay in EDM.

        • DieHard

          I could have swore I heard something like that as well. Anyways, the best way forward is one year contracts as he is over 35 and if something happens we are stuck with the cap hit. What is Smyth’s role going to be, a second or third liner? In my books a third liner who can move up if required due to injury and such. As for dollars, I have read where optimal dollars spent at current cap ceiling for the third line is approximately 6 Million. So is he worth 1/3 or 1/2 of the line?

          • RexLibris

            That’s how I recall it. The report was that Tambellini had made an offer to Smyth and his agent back around January. They hadn’t had any other re-negotiations at the end of the year leading, I believe it was Stauffer, to conclude that the deal was a “take it or leave it” offer.

            About that approach, I actually applaud Tambellini for more or less sticking to his original offer (as would be implied by the continued delay on any re-signing announcement). Earlier this season my opinion on whether the Oilers should make a free agent offer for Ryan Suter was that Tambellini should offer him a deal of four years at $5 million or some such reasonable cap number, no clauses or restrictions, and essentially say “if you want to try and win with this group then welcome aboard. If you want more money then best of luck to you”.

            I don’t want the Oilers to have a core group and begin chasing their tails trying to find that one extra piece or star player. Value the core and add the decorative touches on a budget afterwards.

            This same thing goes for Smyth. I love what he can bring to the table, but not if it costs the team a developing defenseman or depth forward due to the salary cap two years from now.

  • Oilfan69

    I wouldn’t go over 4 mill over 2 years. If he plays a lesser role with lesser expectations he might regain some of the “94” form that we are used to seeing. Overplaying him is bad for him as well as the team.

    • IMO, since he has yet to sign. the two sides are not in agreement on price and term.
      Extending that a bit further. The smyth camp wants too much cabbage.

      However.. and given historical evidence…. Dithers may not have gotten around to it yet. Or forgot. Or something.

  • Pizzy

    So the company I work for decided to play “Big Brother” and is slowely blocking websites on my computer. I just tried logging into “Lowetides” Blog this morning for my morning update and its blocked. FU Corporate! Il be mailing it in the rest of the day now!

  • Vaclav

    If the rumors are true Smyth turned down a 2 years x $2.M per contract from the Oilers. That was 1 year too long in term for a 36 year with too many miles on the tires.

    Smyth is still a useful 3rd liner that can slide up to a scoring line in a pinch but not for the kind of cash and term he appears to be after. Tambellini holds all the cards here after Smyth disappeared offensively for the last 2/3 of the season. If #94 and Meehan truly believe he’s still worth top 6 dollars then time to end the reunion.

  • John Chambers

    @ Woogie,

    Agreed. There’s really no reason to overpay this guy, and that’s probably why he’s still unsigned. If Smyth is still holding out for money and someone wants to throw $3M/season his way this July, then I say step right up Magnus Paajarvi.

    However if Smyth can agree to a reasonable contract he provides much-needed experience of which this team is in short supply.

  • Jano

    My hope of Larsson being acquired from NJ for the first pick took a serious hit last night.

    If Smyth drags his feet on accepting the Oilers offer in hopes of gauging interest from other teams as Canada Day approaches, the Oil should take their offer off the table and make other plans. 1 year 2.5, or 2 years 2 M per.