Smith, Dvorak do the deal

Jason Smith (Bruce Bennett Studios)

Jason Smith (Bruce Bennett Studios)

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers and captain Jason Smith agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth $10.4 million yesterday. The question - with the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement at midnight last night and a unanimous vote by league governors not to resume play until a new economic system is in place - is how much time the big defenceman will have left on his deal when the next NHL game is played?

"Obviously, I'm excited about having the opportunity to stay here for a long period of time and to be a part of this team," said Smith, who hails from Calgary.

LONG-TERM COMMITMENT

"I appreciate that the Oilers were willing to make a long-term commitment to me. I'm three hours up the road from where I grew up and where my wife grew up, so there's no better place to be for family and friends."

Smith, 30, who earned $2.3 million last season, and agent Art Breeze first talked with the Oilers about a long-term deal several weeks ago.

It's a pact that pays $2.6 million in all four years and will take Smith, who arrived in a trade with Toronto March 23, 1999, through the 2007-08 season. That's the good news.

"The team showed a strong commitment to keeping me here for the long term," said Smith, who has played 348 of his 710 NHL games with the Oilers.

"That was the focal point for my family and I. We truly enjoy being here.

''This is where we want to be. We looked at it and talked about the opportunity to work out a long-term deal from, basically, the first day."

The bad news is that by the time Smith's deal was announced, NHL president Gary Bettman had already stated the position of his 30 governors that Smith and other players won't collect another nickel until a new economic order is established.

"We're trying to keep positive on the situation and, hopefully, we'll get an opportunity to get the season going," Smith said. "We have to sit back and mull things over."

DIDN'T GET THE NEWS

Smith, who'd have been an unrestricted free agent after this season had he not re-signed, was at Clare Drake Arena and didn't hear Bettman's news conference, so he wasn't about to wade in on details of the many issues that'll have to be overcome to strike a new deal yesterday.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to get things straightened out," said Smith, who emerged from a skating session cancelled by a fire drill at the University of Alberta to find himself surrounded by news crews looking for sound bytes.

"We're willing to make changes to the system we have. We're just not willing to go the direction the league wants. We believe there's a lot of room in the system we have to make changes that are for the good of the game.

''The direction the league wants isn't where the players want to be."

THE DOTTED LINE: Assistant GM Scott Howson also got the other significant contract remaining on his plate signed, sealed and delivered yesterday as Radek Dvorak agreed to a two-year deal worth $4.2 million.

While the Oilers and agent Ritch Winter weren't nearly as close as Smith to striking a deal when the day began, the sides negotiated through the afternoon. Dvorak made $2 million last season.

- Free agent forward Todd Harvey has signed a two-year contract with the Oilers for $1.370 million, plus an option year.

Harvey, 29, drafted ninth overall by Dallas in 1993, split last season between San Jose and Cleveland of the AHL. Harvey has 216 points and 918 penalty minutes in 608 NHL games.

- In the final deal of the day, done not long before the midnight EST deadline to file contracts with the NHL, the Oilers came to terms on a three-year deal with 19-year-old Sudbury Wolves captain Zach Stortini.

Stortini, who impressed at rookie camp on the weekend, returned to Sudbury yesterday. He'll open the OHL season with the Wolves.

ROAD RUNNERS STOCKED: The Oilers assigned 17 players to the Edmonton Road Runners yesterday in preparation for training camp, which opens with its first on-ice session Sept. 30 at Rexall Place.

Forwards assigned are Dan Baum, Mike Bishai, Kyle Brodziak, Ed Caron, Joe Cullen, J.J. Hunter, Brock Radunske, Tony Salmelainen, Jarret Stoll and Brad Winchester.

They'll be joined at camp by defencemen Doug Lynch, Jason Platt, Mathieu Roy, Kenny Smith and Jeff Woywitka as well as goaltenders Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and Mike Morrison.


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