ST. PAUL, MINN. - LA Kings general manager Dean Lombardi says a deal to send Ryan Smyth to Edmonton is on the rocks.
“No, I don’t think we’re close,” Lombardi said after the final round of the NHL Entry Draft. “Whatever I’m taking back has to allow me full freedom to keep that (cap) space available. If that is not there, I can’t do this deal. And those conditions weren’t there, so there’s no deal.”
Lombardi says if he has to get rid of Smyth, he wants enough cap space to replace him with a similar player. Taking Gilbert Brule, rumoured to be going the other way with a mid-round pick, at $1.85 million won’t accomplish that, especially if he can’t be bought out or sent to the minors because of health issues.
Brule’s been dogged by a variety of persistent problems over the last two seasons, red flag enough that the Kings are worried they won’t be able to move him.
“We were always very clear on what we could take back,” said Lombardi. “To me it was kind of simple, if something has to come back to make this work, there has to be certain things in place that allow me to run my cap.
“If they’re not in place then this make no sense because I have to replace this player. It makes no sense to lose (Smyth) and then lose the flexibility I need to replace him. That’s where it broke down.
“Once it was very clear it I couldn’t do what I needed to do with the player I’m taking back, then it’s not what the deal was based upon by any stretch of the imagination and it certainly doesn’t make any sense for me.”
Lombardi says he’ll keep working on it, and the Oilers say they’re confident something can get done. Maybe Edmonton will have to offer up another body or perhaps Brule will have to pass a medical first.
“I’m being penalized enough, and it’s not anybody’s fault, that I’m losing (Smyth),” said Lombardi. “I’m not going to be penalized again and not be able to at least try and get a player of his calibre.”
While Smyth publicly denied ever having asked to return to Edmonton, Lombardi said he actually approached the team six weeks ago.
“The thing that’s hard about this is this isn’t a player we were counting on losing. Our left wing is arguably be considered our weakest position, especially considering that he’s out.
“But when Smytty called me a month and a half ago and explained it to me. I first heard it from his agent and asked what’s the problem because he actually had one of his best years for us. He was the first one in the weight room, I thought his first 40 games he was one of our best players. He tailed off a little bit ion the last 40, but in the playoffs he was Ryan Smyth, everything you want. You can still see those two goals he scored, they were classic, going to the net.
“I talked to him and he made it very clear it had nothing to do with hockey, it’s all for him family and the family wants to go home.”