Nobody would be discussing Ryan Smyth if the Edmonton Oilers were winning hockey games.
But, they aren't.
Here's my version of events that transpired over the course of the year
- Smyth is the last Oiler RFA to be signed. Smyth reportedly wants a long term deal, but finally settles for a 2 year, 7M deal, making him a free agent on July 1, 2007.
- Pisani, Roloson, Hemsky, Horcoff, Stoll, Lupul - all free agents (UFA and RFA) sign lucrative deals at premium money.
- Lowe mentions he wants to work on extentions Smyth, Moreau, and Staios
- Lowe calls Smyth the "Steve Yzerman" of the Oilers, publicly stating his desire to keep him around.
- Moreau extended for 4 years
- Smyth negotiations not working out at training camp. The Oilers play hardball. Dan Barnes reports that Smyth was offered a 3 year, 12.0M deal (4.0M/year). Smyth reportedly wants longer terms.
Don Meehan was quoted
Meehan said when negotiations broke off during the summer, the Oilers told him there would be no further negotiations until after July 1, when Smyth became an unrestricted free agent.
"We had the understanding then, when they made an offer, that if we didn't take it, they wouldn't talk to us until the end of the year.
"In the last two months they asked to restart talks and we were happy to engage."
- Staios extended for 4 years. Smyth cleary frustrated in an interview with CHED, mentions that he "won't be a pushover this time" One can assert he wanted his fair share of pie, watching all the other guys down the list get long term contracts at premium money.
- Smyth is having a fantastic season which forces Lowe to re-open negotiations.
- Dan Barnes weighs in with his opinion
- Lowe negotiates through the press by stating, "We've offered him a deal longer than 3 years and less than 7 years in length." LINK
- Other quotes indicate putting some pressure on Smyth's camp:
“We’ve indicated a preference to keep Ryan here long-term. And publicly, Ryan said he’d like to be here long term.”
- Smyth shoots back in the media, visibly frustrated, mentioning it's a distraction with the team in the playoff hunt, which is why he wanted a deal done back in the summer.
- Reportedly $100,000/year apart on a contract (27.5M vs 27.0M), which Smyth denied later. Reportedly, Smyth offered to purchase a luxury suite at $100,000/year to make up the difference. Kevin Lowe doesn't budge. Smyth is traded for 1st round draft pick in 2007, Robert Nilsson, and Ryan O'Marra. An emotional speech at Edmonton International Airport surfaces.
- Lowe defends the trade. Mentions it was not for financial purposes. On HNIC, argues that "Smyth is a very good player, but not elite. There will be room in Edmonton for a 7-8M player"
- Patrick LaForge and Cal Nichols defend Kevin Lowe. Cal remarks that a "100,000 isn't that big of a difference when you consider the Alberta tax advantages."
- Lowe finds it difficult to find a trade partner and an Unrestricted Free Agent willing to play for the Oilers, who won only 1 game in the final 20.
- Lowe calls Smyth agent; doesn't receive a return call
- Lowe exclaims, "If I had only known the cap was going to go up, I may have done things differently RE: Smyth." The edjumacated hockey fan knows that's, as Wayne Gretzky once uttered, "a crock of crap" considering every club received updated league documents throughout the year and was aware the cap was going to go up.
- Lowe desperately seeks a LW replacement. Shooting blanks in the UFA market, and frustrated, he resorts to sending RFA offersheets to Vanek and Penner
- Lowe signs Souray at the same money reportedly offered to Smyth at the trade deadline (5.4M AVG for 5 years), possibly for PR purposes and direct orders from the EIG who are involved in a saga of their own with Daryl Katz.
- Katz takes over ownership of the Edmonton Oilers. Lowe is quoted [From mc79hockey.com]:
The question was, basically, how could a single ownership, in this case Darryl Katz, possibly…what possibly could be different from the existing structure of the ownership. I think, I said, just quicker decisions on perhaps something like cap or maybe on deals, being able to pull the trigger a little bit quicker. I gave Ryan as an example because we didn’t know that we were going to be a cap team until into the summer. I said, if I had to to think of anything, maybe that would have made a difference, maybe we would have been able to get that deal done sooner and not been trying to get it done in the last couple weeks leading into the trade deadline. That might have made some of the difference. I’m not suggesting that I’m disappointed one way or the other in whether we did the deal or not. That’s going to prove itself one way or another over time, whether it was a good deal or not. I don’t want people to think that I’m going to start poking holes in the previous structure. I’m just saying, they asked for an example and there’s an example.
- This of course, contradicts Lowe's comments from trade deadline 2007. Edmonton's mainstream media caught napping
"Today we turned a page for sure – but this is not as much about the Oilers today, but what we continue to do as part of an overall plan," said general manager Kevin Lowe. "I want to be very clear that making this trade today is a hockey decision. It was not financial."
- More from Lowe
"I certainly wasn't out there shopping him," Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe said. "But we had to be prepared, in the sense that something like this could happen."
"I always thought we would get a deal done," Lowe said. "And really, until recently when, in our minds, we really stepped up, thought that maybe it's not so obvious, maybe it's not so easy."
"I'm surprised actually, given what Ryan is to the community and what he has been to the franchise," said Don Meehan, Smyth's agent. "But I understand that, with all due respect, they have the ability to make these decisions and that's what management has to do in these circumstances."
Meehan said both he and the Oilers tried to find some common financial ground, but could not.
"Both sides compromised throughout this process," Meehan said. "But not to the degree where we both felt comfortable that we could come to a deal."
"It was really down to the 11th hour where we realized, financially, it wasn't going to get done," Lowe said.
Mindful of how fans reacted to Edmonton trading Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Chris Pronger, Lowe acknowledged that Smyth's departure will likely incite a similar backlash.
"I'm very concerned," Lowe said. "I've thought about it for months.
"I've been on the job for 6-7 years. But this has been the most difficult one."
"Ryan has meant so much to this organization — as did some of the players in the past," Lowe continued. "So we have to factor those things in.
"We know that's a big part of it. He was a big fan favourite and it made the decision that much more difficult.
"We're not insensitive to our fans, by any stretch. But in the same breath, we have to make decisions we think can bolster the team and help it eventually win.
"We're not a better team with Ryan gone, no question. But in the very near future, we'll be a better team."
"We've acquired some very good young assets," Lowe said. "Combined with the ones we already have that are gaining experience, we really like our overall depth.
"The unfortunate part is Ryan Smyth's not a part of it."
- Patrick LaForge weighs in
Oilers President and CEO, Patrick LaForge asked that fans remain objective when considering the deal, "while on the one hand some Oilers fans might be distressed that this trade was made today, I want those same fans to be assured that the Oilers will use these excellent young players and our own deep pool of young talent in a new plan for this team."
"This was about the Oilers staying true to a plan. I know our hockey strategy is sound," said LaForge.
- PunjabiOil meets Don Meehan, Smyth's agent, at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game and straight up, asks him what happened with Smyth. The response was, "Oh, it's a very long, long story." He's also fed a bone "Oh, players love to play in Edmonton!"
I believe until the Edmonton Oilers start winning hockey games, Ryan Smyth will be continuously a hot topic.
For good reason.