Wednesday, November 15, 2006
In the Edmonton Journal today, a column from Dan Barnes entitled The Face of The Franchise looks at Ryan Smyth and his impending free agency. Smyth, whose attendance at practice today allows Oiler fans (and brass) to exhale, is described as "the heart and soul of the Oilers -- and the most influential player in the community".
He is also called the player, along with Dwayne Roloson, who the Oilers could least afford to lose.
Presently he is making 3.5M and Barnes figures he is going to get 4.5 to 5 per year, maybe for 5 years. Smyth wants to stay in Edmonton and will likely give a slight hometown discount.
So, would you make that deal?
Smyth is my favourite Oiler. By far. But its a lot of coin. However, pre salary cap, in a league where Bobby Holik was getting 9M a year, Smyth would have been long long gone, probably at 7M plus.
Lets look at the facts, pro and con.
Smyth will be 31 after this season, 36 at the end of a five year deal. What sort of shape will be in at the end of that after what will 16 years of going hard to the net?
Counterargument - Brendan Shanahan plays a similar style and is still productive. With the crackdown on fouls its easier to make a living the way Smyth does. And despite his style of play in his ten seasons in the league he has not missed a game in five of them (granted one of them was the short season), has played over 70 in two more and never less then 61 (2001/2002). So he is actually pretty durable, considering.
Smyth has never scored 40 goals; 5M per is way too much for his type of player.
Counterargument - Smyth scored 36 last season, his highest total since 96/97 and is on pace for 40 this season. He seems to be one player who has really benefitted from the obstruction crackdown (and the year off). On top of that Smyth has become an all round player, the type who plays pretty well at both ends of the rink, and also seems to be the guy who always comes up with the big goal when needed. Add to that the intangibles of leadership and experience on a team needing both and its easy to argue that he has more value then some of the more talented players who will be UFAs next summer (ie/ Datsyuk)
5M per year will put the Oilers in a cap bind that they will regret.
Counterargument - considering the fact that their depth on left wing runs like this after Smyth - Torres, Moreau, Peterson, Jacques, Mikhnov - I would say that they will have plenty of space to fit him in. Or they should find it. Because without Smyth we're looking at a big void on the port side. You have to pay for production. If Smyth scores 40 goals this season is that worth 5M?
What it comes down to is whether or not the Oilers are willing to gamble if Smyth can produce as he did last season and is this season for the next four to five years. If they believe that he can score 35 to 40 goals when he is 35 then he's worth it. If they think that he is going to start to decline and that decline is coming soon then he's not.
Add to that the fact that this team has watched, well, every star player it ever had leave and, that as Barnes said, Smyth is the face of the team and the question is, can they afford not to resign him in PR terms? Of course they could say goodbye but the goodwill they would generate by signing him would be immeasureable. I think I speak for everyone when I say it gets pretty tiresome cheering for laundry, as Seinfeld once said.
What would you do?
I would cross my fingers and sign him. The thing is, if he doesn't get the money here, he will elsewhere. And if you're not going to sign him, then who are you going to sign? You can talk about having a budget etc etc but if you're not going to keep your best player then ... what the ...?
A gamble? Sure. But every signing is. And if he produces for four of those five years its a good signing.
I say do it. You?
Posted by Black Dog at 2:44 PM