The New York Islanders made a commitment to not only making the playoffs but being a force in them as they acquired Ryan Smyth from the Edmonton Oilers. The Islanders did not give up any players from their active roster to acquire Smyth. The Oilers received former Islanders’ first-round draft picks Ryan O’Marra (2005) and Robert Nilsson (2003) plus the Islanders’ first-round pick the 2007 Entry Draft for Smyth.
In the 31-year-old Smyth, the Islanders acquired a player in his prime who has been considered the heart and soul of the Edmonton Oilers franchise. Smyth has topped the 30-goal mark four times in his career including this season where he has 31 goals and 53 points in 53 games. In addition to his strong offensive production, Smyth was a leader in the Oilers’ locker room and was the captain of the team that made the Stanley Cup Finals last season where they were defeated in seven games by the Carolina Hurricanes.
Smyth is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Oilers were not willing to meet Smyth’s demands for a multi-year extension which were rumored to be approximately $5.5 million per season. The Islanders will be the only team that has the right to negotiate with Smyth until July 1.
In an interview with TSN in Canada, Smyth’s agent, Don Meehan, indicated that negotiations with the Oilers broke down at 2:40, just 20 minutes prior to the trade deadline. He also explained that Smyth was “shocked” by the trade. “Ryan had been an Oiler his entire career,” Meehan said. “Naturally, it [the trade] was a shock to him.” Meehan also indicated there have been “no discussions with the Islanders at all” about a new contract for his client but he expected them to take place in the near future.
In addition to Smyth, the Islanders face the prospect of their leading scorer, Jason Blake, being an unrestricted free agent this summer. Blake was rumored to be available at the trade deadline but Isles’ GM, Garth Snow did not end up trading Blake. According to published reports, no Western Conference club was able to put together an attractive enough package of draft picks and prospects for Blake so Snow decided to stand pat.
This deal sets the Isles up as solid contenders in the Eastern Conference this year. Once captain Alexei Yashin returns to the lineup, the Isles’ top line will likely be Yashin, Smyth and Blake with a solid second line consisting of newly acquired Richard Zednik, Viktor Kozlov and Miro Satan. The third line of Mike Sillinger, Trent Hunter and Andy Hilbert has been the club’s most consistent trio all season and provides strong defense and timely goals. If the Islanders get solid goaltending from Rick DiPietro, they should be able to battle any team in the Eastern Conference come playoff time.
While the long term implications of the deal will be determined by how the Islanders do in this year’s playoffs and whether or not they can re-sign Smyth for next season, Garth Snow made the Isles’ a stronger team for this year’s playoff run with the acquisitions of Smyth, Zednik and Marc-Andre Bergeron.