Smytty's stayin' home

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

The face of the Edmonton Oilers was wearing one of those sloppy grins fans have come to know when reporters leaned in to get the dope on the deal at Rexall Place yesterday.

While Ryan Smyth would've preferred the four-year contract he and agent Don Meehan tried to negotiate - no truth to the rumour he wanted a life-time pact - the two-year deal for $7 million he got will do the trick.

Smyth, who has spent 642 NHL games draped in Oilers silks, has no intention of going anywhere.

All this contract means is he'll have to ink the next two years after 2006-07 as an unrestricted free agent. He wants to stay.

GM Kevin Lowe went into this preferring one year, a pact that would buy him time to assess Smyth, the market and the new CBA. Lowe won't admit it, but the Oilers would've been happy to take one year, watch Smyth have a great season and pay more later, if need be. They want Captain Canada, who has 430 points as an Oiler, here.

The bottom line is Smyth, the longest-serving player in the Oiler dressing room, and Lowe met in the middle. It was a compromise and reasonable fit for both sides.

That's allowed, you know.

"Wasn't I smiling yesterday? I was here," said Smyth, who reported for the opening day of camp Tuesday with a one-year deal as a fallback position. "It's obviously a great feeling to get things settled."

SPURNED OTHER OFFERS

Smyth, 29, who'd have been offered $4 million a season from a dozen clubs as an unrestricted free agent next summer - assuming anything but a disaster this year - gets two seasons to re-set his value and a chance to strike a more lucrative deal to stay here.

"It means I'm here for two years and, hopefully, many more years after," Smyth said. "It's good not to have to worry something's going to happen during the year or at the end of the year."

Lowe has done his job. He's inked his best winger for two seasons and shown No. 94 the respect he deserves by doubling the term he preferred, while keeping a prudent hand on the purse strings.

"It gets us going and gets Ryan in this new mix," Lowe said. "We brought in some new guys, but we want to have some continuity. We recognized we didn't want to lose him next year, as well.

"The tradeoff is it gives us some flexibility. We're still trying to figure out the cap. We've got a lot of young guys knocking on the door to play in the next couple of years. I'm not suggesting Ryan is the guy out, but it gives us flexibility."

Tuesday afternoon it looked like the compromise would result in a three-year deal. With too much of a financial gap on four years, that possibility died days ago.

NUMBERS DIDN'T ADD UP

When Meehan pitched three years, the Oilers were interested, but the numbers didn't add up so they settled on the deuce with $3.5 million for each year.

There was no hardball in this negotiation. There was more debate between Smyth and Lowe over gimme putts on the golf course this summer than about dollars.

"I want to be an Oiler," Smyth said. "I've been here for 10 years and they've treated me with a great deal of respect. I've been loyal as I could be to the jersey and to them. It goes both ways. I'm happy again for two more years."

One year. Two years.

It doesn't matter. My bet is Smyth will end his NHL career as he started it - as an Oiler. As it should be.

"My daughters were born here," he said. "My family is from Red Deer. I was born in Banff. My wife (Stacey) is from Moose Jaw. I couldn't ask for anything better. This is a great opportunity to (establish) the marketplace for both sides and maybe lock in a little bit longer next time."


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