Oilers finalize trade for Smyth

Ryan Smyth was the sixth overall pick of Edmonton in 1994. (QMI Agency, file)

Ryan Smyth was the sixth overall pick of Edmonton in 1994. (QMI Agency, file)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:41 PM ET

EDMONTON - When the opportunity presented itself, Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini thought getting Ryan Smyth back would be good for his young hockey club.

Actually getting the deal done, however, proved to be a different matter altogether.

“It’s a different negotiation every time you’re trying to make a deal, especially in the modern day National Hockey League,” said Tambellini. “It could make sense to us, but perhaps it didn’t make sense for the L.A. Kings, so you have to switch things and eventually you get to somewhere where both are satisfied for what their goals are.

“It just has to match up, it takes time and at times it can be frustrating. I know I was getting a lot of questions whether the deal was done, and I would have loved to have an answer for people earlier if I could have. But you have to go through the process. As painstaking as it can be at times, you have to stick with it.”

Smyth was eventually acquired by the Oilers on Sunday for forward Colin Fraser and a seventh-round draft pick in next summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

Originally, it was reported the Oilers acquired Smyth for centre Gilbert Brule and a fourth-round pick.

However, question arose over Brule’s health and the Kings backed away from that particular deal.

Tambellini said the Oilers do not have any concerns with Brule’s health and expect him to be ready for training camp.

“At the end of the day we were very clear when we had the opportunity to bring in someone like Ryan,” Tambellini said. “Especially with the change that has happened here over the last year, and with the type of young players that are so eager and hungry to be part of something that is special in the NHL, you need that component of leadership.”

Smyth, 35, is in the final year of his contract that will pay him $4.5-million this season. His salary-cap hit, however is $6.25-million.

The Banff native had 23 goals and 24 assists in 82 games last season with the Kings. He added another two goals and three assists in the playoffs.

Following the season, Smyth and his agent Don Meehan, approached Kings general manager Dean Lombardi about a possible trade back to Edmonton due to family reasons.

“It was initiated from the Kings and Ryan’s agent that there was a desire to come back to Edmonton and be part of the Oilers,” said Tambellini. “When someone has contributed to the culture and growth of an organization with the team, and has represented his country in so many situations, where I’ve had a chance to work with him as a manager, you want to make that happen.

“You can never have enough of a sense of leadership in your dressing room. The real strength comes from mentorship within a dressing room.”

Smyth was originally selected by the Oilers, sixth overall in the 1994 draft. He spent 12 seasons with the club before being dealt to the New York Islanders in 2007, moments before the NHL trade deadline.

Set to become a restricted free agent at the end of that season, then GM Kevin Lowe did not want to risk losing Smyth without any form of compensation. So when the two sides were unable to come to terms on a contract extension, Lowe traded away the team’s most popular player.

Following stops with the Colorado Avalanche and Kings, the Oilers jumped at the opportunity to bring Smyth back.

“I’m excited that we have that component of a person that cares about Edmonton,” said Tambellini. “A person that is going to be so excited to put on an Oilers jersey and to match up with the young people that are going to be part of a new Oilers culture here of expectation and winning ways, that’s important.

“We need solid, passionate people about this team, in order to help with the momentum of this thing getting better any time we get together. I can’t see any reason why Ryan wouldn’t be a huge part of that.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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