When the NHL schedule came out yesterday it revealed the Kings will host both the Washington Captials and Pittsburgh Penguins. Sid and Ovi coming to town? Usually that’s enough to talk about on a boring Thursday in June.
Yet, leave it to Dean Lombardi to throw that one out the window.
Then, hours later, he dropped another bomb on the conference call – yes, Ryan Smyth DID ask for a trade.
As discussed here on MayorsManor earlier in the week, Smyth’s team of preference was the Oilers. And our poll showed fans were split on what the Kings should expect in return (results here).
Lombardi, known for his honesty when answering these type of questions, was his usual blunt self…
“This has kind of evolved over the last two months, actually. When Ryan asked to be moved, at first I was really troubled. Ryan, in our first 40 games last year I thought he was one of our better players. He kind of tailed off a little and then, in the playoffs, was one of our best players. And certainly, left wing, it’s not one of our strongest positions. So first off, my reaction was, `No way,’ and I couldn’t figure out why, because I think Ryan had adapted well.”
Over the course of several subsequent conversations, Lombardi came to a sort of peace with the idea – “He was very clear that it had nothing to do with hockey, that it was strictly for his family, that he wanted to go home. I thought about it (for) a week or so and talked to his agent and said, `If it’s a hockey issue, I would not approve of this, because if it’s coaching, the power play, his ice time, who he’s playing with, these are things that we will work through.’ But if it’s a personal thing, a family issue, it’s hard to argue with that and have a player that’s not going to be happy.”
What now? Well, the trade is likely to come at the draft - “I’ve primarily dealt with three teams, and particularly two right now. This kind of hit the front burner last week, in terms of coming out publicly, because of the predicament I was in. I was talking to other teams about getting a left winger if Ryan goes, and teams say, `Why is he going?’ and I had to explain it to them. I tried to move this along because I have to replace him. I’m not in a great position here. We’re just going to have to adapt. I’ve talked to one team a number of times, and they’ve been very forthright in trying to piece it together. I hope to have that wrapped up here in a day or two.”
Although he (somewhat) jokingly said “Maybe he changes his mind now that Mike Richards is in our lineup, I don’t know,” it doesn’t appear that’s going to happen. For family reasons, Smyth wants to return to Canada.
Lombardi went on to say “It’s an awkward situation. I’ve never had this before. It’s nothing I’ve certainly ever planned on. I think his contract is very favorable, in terms of the cash and (it being) the last year, but we’ve got to adjust to it.”
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Ryan Smyth is about to test the theory that you can’t go home again.
In a deal that came together after the Calgary Flames are believed to have entered the race, the Oilers agreed to send Gilbert Brule and a fourth round draft pick to the Kings in exchange for Captain Canada.
Brule, a center, is under contract for one more year but is most likely being bought out.
He was a first round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2005 and was traded to the Oilers in 2008. At this point, his talents – even though seven goals in 41 games last season aren’t bad numbers - are probably not enough to crack the roster in Los Angeles. Thus, all of Smyth’s salary comes off the books and frees up GM Dean Lombardi‘s budget just a week before NHL free agency opens up next Friday.
Smyth, a left wing, was a top goal and point producer for the Kings this season. So, his departure creates a real hole in coach Terry Murray’s offense. Expect the Kings to be active in the weeks to come while looking for a solution.
For a look back at key moments in Smyth’s career – including his very first NHL game, played between the Oilers and Kings at the Forum in Inglewood - check out this article I did with him earlier this season.
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update II: Although neither team has confirmed the trade yet, Don Meehan (Smyth’s agent) confirmed it to Yahoo Sports Canada
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Update III – it looks like the deal, even though confirmed by several sources, never was 100% done as far the NHL was concerned. It may still happen. However, at this time, the health of Brule is causing some issues with the deal. If he’s injured, the Kings can’t buy him out. Calgary looks to be back in now. Stay tuned. It’s still not over.
plenty more Los Angeles Kings notes on www.MayorsManor.com
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