Free Agents: Ryan Smyth, Edmonton Oilers

Jonathan Willis
May 02 2012 08:41AM

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

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 DieHard
May 02 2012, 03:04PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

When did Tambo state that he made a "take it or leave offer because its the only one that works into their plan for the team"?

I don't believe he ever said any such thing.

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?

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#52 TigerUnderGlass
May 02 2012, 03:52PM
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DieHard wrote:

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?

It's one thing to say he made an offer, it's another thing entirely for Steve Tambellini to say anything close to "I made a single take it or leave it offer."

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#53 Wax Man Riley
May 02 2012, 05:13PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

It's one thing to say he made an offer, it's another thing entirely for Steve Tambellini to say anything close to "I made a single take it or leave it offer."

I think the "take it or leave it" was an interpretation from a local radio personality. Can't remember which one.

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#54 RexLibris
May 02 2012, 06:53PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

I think the "take it or leave it" was an interpretation from a local radio personality. Can't remember which one.

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.

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#55 Rama Lama
May 02 2012, 06:54PM
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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.

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#56 Oilcan
May 02 2012, 09:26PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

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.

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?

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