Come back, Ryan Smyth. (No. Not really.)

If you haven't been following the private-gone-public saga between the general managers of the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers around the (twice) disputed trade of Ryan Smyth back to Edmonton, you're missing out.

Dean Lombardi comes off as P.I. Pissed. Steve Tambellini comes off as ... fulfilling my existing impression of his methods. ("His methods became ... unsound.")

To catch up, check out Kings-blog Jewels from the Crown here and most recently here, where Quisp -- who covered last summer's Kovalchuk CBA ramifications more thoroughly than anyone -- has been all over the timeline and the logical somersaults.

I find this saga fascinating because it touches just about every way the off-ice side of today's NHL intrigues me:

  • GM-to-GM relations (these two GMs are not fond of one another);
  • trades, and the medical clearances required to consummate them (the Oilers have twice tried to trade injured players to the Kings in this saga);
  • trades and roster manipulation in a salary cap era (Smyth requested a trade, denied it, was shipped "home" to Edmonton for peanuts...peanuts with baggage that can't even be bought out);
  • and of course, how much the NHLPA actually cares about its transient "little" members like Colin Fraser, the AAAA player with the broken foot who may or may not make an NHL roster even if cleared to play, but is currently stuck in limbo between a team that didn't want him and a team that only took him because he'd be a cheap cut/buyout if necessary.

 

All of these variables could or should be in play in this situation (if you only read one of the above links, check this timeline for the overall picture on why). But it gave me a chuckle for one other reason, quoted in Quisp's latest post from what Dean Lombardi told the Kings' in-house beat writer:

"We want to save the spirit of the trade, although I did have a team call me today, saying that if it’s not going through, they would take [Smyth]..."

That one got me thinking, "Now who on Earth would try to coax Smyth to go somewhere besides Edmonton...?" So yeah, I don't suspect nor advocate the Islanders throwing their hat into this ring to bring Smyth "home, interrupted," although I bet some segment of fans would tune in to see the one year left on Smyth's deal as mitigating the cap floor worries that occupy bored July minds.

And it can't really work out that way (one wouldn't think), because this whole drama started when Smyth, who had a no-movement clause and initially acted like he decided no such thing, decided he wanted his family to be back in small and cozy Edmonton and away from the "lifestyle" of Southern California. (There is a lot of vague innuendo about what lifestyle Smyth objected to in L.A., some of which no doubt is just as prevalent on the East Coast, though some of which you could argue is insulated within suburban Long Island, safely away from whatever nightlife or daylife isn't Smyth's speed. But also: SoCal has private places and gated communities galore, so...yeah, I suspect he wants small-town Canada, ASAP. Thank goodness Winnipeg has a team again!)

 

Veiled Threats and Summer Musing

As Quisp muses, Lombardi's "I did have a team call me today" quote may have just been a little controlled release meant to put pressure on Tambellini, whose fans are eager to welcome Smyth back with wide open arms. (You might also interpret that the rumors Oilers rival Calgary was in on the Smyth sale was meant to pressure Tambellini to consummate the deal.)

One thing we know about Lombardi is that he likes to talk. A lot. For attribution. Without much concern for whom he might upset inside (Jack Johnson) or outside (Jack Johnson's Michigan coach) his own organization. But when he does talk, it usually gives us a fun window into the world of GM-ing, as one man sees it. Tambellini, in contrast, seems to be merely hoping the whole matter goes away.

[Note: I'm using a lot of links to Jewels from the Crown, a Kings blog, here. Obviously that's open to pro-Kings bias. But their timeline is factual, Quisp's analysis usually quite sober, and ... well no matter who you side with, the details are quite fun, aren't they?]

All Lombardi wants in this situation is a low-cost body (or just the original draft pick) that he can waive or buy out so that he can get on with his offseason moves (re-signing Drew Doughty) after adding Mike Richards and others to his payroll. Voiding the trade and taking Smyth back cannot work, given payroll constraints. But what if Lombardi threatened to void the trade and suggest he could offer Smyth a different "return home" -- not the home Smyth wants, but perhaps a home where they aren't allowing medical evals to get in the way of putting #94 in copper orange and blue again?

Again, it's not happening. But if you enjoy watching GM dramas the way Mrs. Lighthouse enjoys a Bravo channel fashion contest show, then it's fun to gameplan through all the possibilities and intrigue, and wonder just who it was (if anyone ... perhaps Calgary again? The Jets?) placed a call to Lombardi to take a voided Smyth off his hands.

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