SUN Hockey Pool

It's all about Smytty

TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Expect Ryan Smyth to sign a four, five or even six-year contract at $5-something million US a year soon.

And don't be surprised, when he does, if he not only comes out of it an Edmonton Oiler for the rest of his career but wearing the captain's 'C'.

On the day GM Kevin Lowe made it official he's finally made a serious offer to keep Smyth here for the rest of his career, it was Captain Canada who grabbed the Oilers by the ears, the game by the throat and personally put the boots to the Los Angeles Kings last night.

Smyth scored two goals and two assists, including the winner, to lead Edmonton to a 4-3 win.

TRADE DEADLINE

One month to the day from the trade deadline, Lowe admitted last night he has made an offer to keep Smyth here "longer than three and less than seven'' seasons.

Lowe, however, denied, a Hockey Night In Canada report that Smyth's agent Don Meehan is here or headed here to do the deal.

"He's not here. That's all news to me,'' said Lowe. "I know he's headed to Europe in the middle of next week."

Lowe says he has no meeting with Meehan presently planned here, or anywhere.

"We've made an offer," he said.

Lowe characterized it as "the first serious offer" which has been made to Smyth, who would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.

The Oilers' GM said he wasn't even aware if Smyth knew of the offer while he was doing his 'will everybody here kindly step to the rear and let a winner lead the way' thing in a game which was huge for the Oilers coming off 4-0 and 5-1 losses at home on either side of the all-star break.

"Meehan indicated he'd probably inform Ryan of the offer Sunday," said Lowe.

Smyth said he indeed had no clue.

"It'll be interesting to talk to Donnie. Obviously, I'd like to get the thing done. I don't want it to be a distraction for the team. We're headed into a stretch run."

Smyth said it's all been out there.

"They know where we stand. We made an offer at the start of the year. They countered. And then nothing.

"They said they didn't want to negotiate during the season and we were going to say the same thing. But now ... well, obviously with free agency, it's an important contract."

Lowe says the serious offer indicated the Oilers desire to keep their face-of-the-franchise player here.

"We've indicated a preference to keep Ryan here long- term. And publicly, Ryan said he'd like to be here long term."

This is finally the move which had to be made to make this happen sooner rather than later.

As for the above suggestion that Smyth will end up with not only the new contract but the captaincy, that's somewhere Lowe isn't likely to go on or off the record.

But with the frequency that the name of long-serving captain Jason Smith keeps coming up in trade talks, the less-than-stellar season he's having and the obvious fact that this is unquestionably Ryan Smyth's hockey team now, I submit it makes nothing but sense.

It also might provide the shake-up to put this team back into a playoff position.

But that's me.

Smyth, off last night, might want a clause to mandate Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff be kept together as his linemates for the term of the contract.

Tried, tested and true, the line came through in a big way to lead the way.

ALL FOUR GOALS

The line got all four goals.

"Mac put us back together hoping we'd rub off on everybody," said Smyth.

"Ryan, Horc and Hemmer were a handful all night," said coach Craig MacTavish for his end of it. "We needed a line to step up and they certainly did that. Hemsky just wasn't working with Petr and Petr," he said of Sykora and Nedved.

"Ryan played great. We needed someone to step up and play spectacular and he did that tonight."

The two goals were Smyth's 24th and 25th of the season. The four points matched a career high for No. 94. And the night gave Smyth the team lead in scoring despite missing 10 games due to injury.

With eight 20-goal seasons, Smyth has an excellent chance to match his career high total of 39.

Despite missing the 10 games, he's only six points off the league lead in goals scored.

Whatever his new deal is going to be, he's already giving full value for it.


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