EDMONTON - Ryan Smyth is thrilled to be staying at home, even though the place is barely recognizable now that massive renovations are starting to take shape.
The Oilers kept the long-serving winger in Edmonton, signing him to a two-year, $4.5 million contract, with the understanding that his place on the new-look team won't be as prominent as the one he's known for 12 seasons.
Smyth, 36, can still deliver. He had 46 points in 82 games last year, but with a flood of talented forwards in Edmonton after three years of picking first overall, no longer will there be automatic minutes in the top six.
"I believe it's really important that he understands that, at this point in his career, he's part of a team where possibly there will be different roles coming at him," said head coach Ralph Krueger, who sees Smyth moving between the second and third line as well as killing penalties and getting second unit power play time.
"We've really had good conversations about that and he's very, very comfortable with the way we see his role. He realizes that he's at a place, at that age, where he needs to accept that."
Smyth bleeds orange and blue, so having to re-define his job description on a much better Oilers team was never an issue with him.
"You have to identify your role and accept and be held accountable for it," he said. "You look at other teams that have won and that's what it took for them to win. Same thing applies. Wherever coach feels I'm an asset or can help out the team, I'll do it."
The contractual battle went longer than he'd hoped -- from last March to Sunday morning -- but the gulf wasn't wide enough to warrant another sudden exit.
"The war is over, that is all I have to say," he chuckled. "Obviously I came to terms with it. I'm excited it got done. Now I can play.
"This is where I want to be. I see the team going in the right direction and I see some great upside. I want to be a piece of the puzzle and enjoy it as much as I can."
While Smyth's job description is different now than it was in his previous incarnations, it's no less important. Krueger believes the veteran can still have a significant impact.
"The versatility of him is what is so valuable," said Krueger. "He can play up and down the lineup, he can play, centre or wing on either side. He can play power play or penalty kill. It's an asset and a type of player that we don't have very many of. He accepts it and understands what it takes to win."
And there have never been many nights when fans at Rexall Place left the building wondering why he didn't give it more.
"His international experience and his experience in the National Hockey League and his hunger to be on a winning team and to win the Stanley Cup is so big that we can tap into that in our veteran group, which needs to guide this young talent," said Krueger.
"He's understood the fact that he's here now not only as a player but as a person who needs to help us guide the young players we have in the lineup."
And he still has game.
"I don't look at it like I'm closing in on the end of my career," said Smyth. "I believe I still have something left in me."
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