How much and where will Ryan Smyth play for Edmonton Oilers?
As we survey the crowded UFA landscape, less than a month from training camps opening, and see warriors like Brenden Morrow and Dan Cleary out of work, Ryan Smyth, who has the same engine as both of those UFA’s, but is considerably more evergreen at 37, must consider himself lucky to have a contract at $2.25 million for this upcoming Edmonton Oilers’ season.
The question is how much work Smyth will get this season, as he closes in on 1200 career NHL games.
Third-line? Fourth? Eighty-two games, 70, 60, 50 games? Will he be a regular or in and out of the lineup? At his exit meeting last spring, was he told to prepare for life as a mentor as much as a contributor, as the oldest Oiler? Or will it be business as usual for Smyth, who played all but one game in the lockout season? Likely depends on how much contributing he does statistically, apart from what he can surely impart as a teacher.
I was looking forward to Smyth getting inside Teemu Hartikainen’s head, to get him to play every shift like it was his last, to play more of a 200-foot game than just a cycling game, but Hartikainen decided he’d rather play in Russia, the second-best league in the world, which seems a cop-out for a kid who isn’t Russian, but maybe that’s just me.
Last season was a dispiriting time for Smyth, who had just two goals, none in the last two months of the season, the longest drought of his proud career. He had just 13 points in 47 games. He had one point on the powerplay, long his bread and butter. He killed penalties, hard. He worked on the third line, and also for a time as a fourth-line centre when Eric Belanger busted his foot, which shows a willingness to be a team player, also Smyth’s survival instinct.”