Clock ticking on Smyth

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

The Ryan Smyth watch will go right down to the wire.

With the NHL trade deadline set for 1 p.m. today, the Edmonton Oilers and Smyth's camp are scheduled to talk at least once more.

"We are still having discussions and I expect to speak to (Oilers assistant general manager) Scott Howson again (this) morning," Don Meehan, Smyth's agent, told the Sun.

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, there has been plenty of talk suggesting the Oilers could trade Smyth this morning instead of risking losing him and getting nothing in return at the end of the season.

PLAYOFF STRUGGLE

Complicating matters further is the Oilers' playoff struggle.

Edmonton trail the Calgary Flames by nine points for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

It's believed Smyth is hoping for a long-term deal - potentially five years in length - worth at leasts $5 million US a season.

But the Oilers' leading scorer is carefully choosing his words in public.

When asked if he would bet anything on whether a deal would be done by today, he replied: "I really don't know what is going on.

"I let Donny worry about that. I am playing the game."

The Oilers' executive team declined to speculate yesterday on the possibility of getting a new contract done.

But Edmonton Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish definitely wants a deal to get finalized.

"It's probably a win-win situation for the organization and Ryan to get a deal done," said MacTavish yesterday afternoon.

"But you just deal with the situation.

"Ryan has put himself in a position where he is having a real good season on the last year of his contract.

"It is an enviable position.

"But I don't view them as distractions at all.

"And certainly Ryan doesn't the way that he is playing."

With 31 goals in 53 games, Smyth is on pace for 42 goals, which would surpass his previous career high of 39 in 1996-97.

"I think everybody here would like to come to a deal with Ryan," continued MacTavish.

"Kevin (Lowe) more so than anybody.

"It is just the case of making the right financial deal.

"And it is not a simple deal, obviously.

"There is big implications both ways on the deal.

"But from my perspective, I just let them (Oiler management and Smyth's camp) do their job."

At 31, age is definitely a factor. Tying up millions of dollars in a deal that could extend until Smyth is 36 or 37 takes consideration.

FRONT AND CENTRE

After playing 12 seasons in Edmonton and every one of his 770 games in the NHL with an Oilers crest on the front of his jersey, the thought of Smyth not playing in Edmonton will be front and centre with legions of fans until this afternoon's deadline.

It has been rumoured that if Lowe isn't able to reach a deal with Meehan, Smyth could attract offers of $6 million US a season on the free agent market this summer.


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