ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The deal to bring Ryan Smyth back to the Edmonton Oilers for Gilbert Brule has “broken down” over concerns about how the deal would impact the Los Angeles Kings’ salary cap.
“There’s no deal right now,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said Saturday.
“The way this deal was proposed we were very clear in what we could take back. It makes no sense as it stands now for me to lose a player like Ryan and to also lose the flexibility I need to replace him in the lineup. That’s why this has broken down.”
Lombardi bluntly signalled the deal must be reworked and that he had reached his limit in bargain to trade Smyth.
“I’m paying a penalty for something that’s not my fault, losing Smytty (over family concerns). I’m not going to pay for another penalty,” said Lombardi.
There are also issues with Brule and while Lombardi wouldn’t be specific, the 24-year-old Oilers forward played only 41 games last year because of several health problems. When healthy, he can be a feisty role player, scoring 17 goals two years ago, but only seven last season. Brule was signed to a two-year, $3.7-million US contract after those 17 goals.
The Kings also don’t want Brule’s $1.85-million salary on the roster. Lombardi has cap concerns and needs room to go out and replace Smyth with a top-six forward. This is more than a snag to Lombardi.
If the Oilers want the hugely popular Smyth, who played 770 games with the club before being traded to the New York Islanders in 2007, back in their lineup for his scoring ability and mentorship, it appears, in talking to Lombardi, that they’ll have to put somebody else in the deal or offer a better draft pick to go along with the fifth-rounder that’s also supposed to be going to the Kings.
The Oilers still refuse to discuss the specifics of the trade, although team president Kevin Lowe is believed to still hope it will get done.
Smyth had 47 points last year, more than any Oilers player, although injuries prevented Ales Hemsky, Taylor Hall and Sam Gagner from exceeding that mark. Smyth also scored 23 goals, more than any Oiler. He can be an effective player on the rebuilding team.
The Oilers would value Smyth’s character and ability to lead Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, newcomer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and their other young talent. They think he would be a really good fit, for one year at his $4.5-million salary. Smyth carries a cap hit of $6.25 million, but it’s not a concern for the club as it’s way under the $64.3-million ceiling that’s coming next year.
“I wish I could give you something (news of the trade),” said GM Steve Tambellini, “but there’s nothing to say.”
For Lombardi, the issues with Smyth came out of the blue.
“Ryan isn’t a player we were counting on losing,” said Lombardi. “Arguably, left-wing could be our weakest position, especially if he’s out, but when his agent called a month and a half ago, my first reaction was, ‘What’s the problem?’
“He had one of his best years for us. He was first guy in the weight room, for the first 40 games he was one of our best players. He tailed off in the last 40, but in the playoffs, he was Ryan Smyth again. He did everything for us. The two goals he scored were classic, go to the net Ryan Smyth goals.
“We were totally focused on the middle (they just traded for Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards), then I get this call and Smytty said it had nothing to do with hockey. He said the family wanted to go home.
“Once I got my head wrapped around that, that I had two holes now (centre, which was filled, and left-wing), I started thinking of other players who had moved like this, in the last year of their contract, like Simon Gagne to Tampa Bay from Philadelphia last year,” said Lombardi.
“I knew I wasn’t going to come out ahead on this one, but I did set some parameters. I’ve been trying (he has also talked to Calgary),” he said. “To me, it was simple. (Players) could come back to our team but they had to be such that I could control my salary cap. I had to replace Ryan (with a top-six player eventually). Whoever I was taking back had to allow me that option. If not, I couldn’t do the deal.”
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