SUN Hockey Pool

Just not close enough

Former Oiler Ryan Smyth takes a moment to compose himself during his final goodbye at the Edmonton...

Former Oiler Ryan Smyth takes a moment to compose himself during his final goodbye at the Edmonton International Airport on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Walter Tychnowicz)

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

One hundred thousand dollars.

That was it. That was the difference between what the Edmonton Oilers had offered and what Ryan Smyth's agent Don Meehan was asking 20 minutes before the deadline.

That's the number, the Sun has learned from a highly placed, highly credible source, that resulted in Ryan Smyth becoming a New York Islander.

The Oilers, who saw Smyth as a $5 million player, had agreed to go up to $5.4 million on the deadline. Meehan, according to the source, said no deal - refusing to move from $5.5 over five years with a no-trade contract.

It was at that point, according to the source, the Oilers GM Kevin Lowe broke it off.

Smyth, the Sun has learned, could have remained an Oiler if his agent had come down $100,000. Or if Lowe, who had to think he had already gone way past the limit, had waved the white flag and gone up the last amount.

Smyth did not divulge those numbers at his airport press conference yesterday.

WOULDN'T SAY

"There's a lot of speculation out there," said Smyth, who wouldn't say what the number was that Meehan had last put out there or if the agent had taken it to the player to make the final call.

"We were stuck in our cement and they were stuck in theirs," said Smyth.

He said it hurts so much but he doesn't take it personally, doesn't blame Lowe, and isn't leaving with a grudge which would keep him from ever coming back.

"Who knows down the line. You never know," he said of the possibility he could sign as a free agent after the end of the season as a rental player with the New York Islanders.

"Obviously it was a grind. Obviously it was not an easy decision for Kevin. It came right down to the 11th hour for both sides."

To the Edmonton Oilers, you need to be a 100-point player or somebody who makes everybody around him better to be a $5.5 million man like Chris Pronger. And beloved as he was, Ryan Smyth isn't a 100-point player and doesn't really make anybody around him a great deal better. Yet they went to $5.4?

There's also the concept of possibly being worth $5.5 million today but what about five years from now when he's 36 years old on the final year of a five-year contract. Yet they went to $5.4?

Smyth handled the tough questions in that area yesterday at the airport prior to taking his flight to New York where he'll suit up with the Islanders tonight against the St. Louis Blues.

"I know they had to make a business decision. Kevin has a bottom line he has to deal with.

"Obviously I didn't fit into his budget.

"It just didn't get done. It was a bridge we were coming down together and ... it just wasn't meant to be.

"He never said 'We'll trade you'," said Smyth, adding, however, that everybody involved knew there was that chance of that happening in the end.

He was asked if having settled for a hometown discount his previous two contracts had come into play with this one.

"No," he said after a pause.

"It wasn't a factor."

He was asked if the deal should have got done last summer, when the Oilers were signing several of his veteran teammates to long-term deals.

"It could have happened. It didn't. I don't hold any regrets. It goes both ways.''

He said he's convinced "there was good faith on both sides."

NOT SUCCESSFUL

Smyth volunteered that in his 12 years here the Oilers weren't all that successful with him. He suggested he played as often in the spring for Team Canada at the World Hockey Championships as he did for the Oilers in the playoffs.

"We made a Stanley Cup run only once. We were in the playoffs maybe eight years but just squeaked in every year."

Certainly the Oilers weren't making the playoffs this season despite Smyth leading the team in scoring.


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