(Long Island, NY) Speculation approaching the February 27 NHL trading deadline was that the New York Islanders were going to be sellers instead of buyers. Jason Blake, who is having a career year, was rumored to be on the move to a number of Western Conference teams. He had been looking for a contract extension from Islanders General Manager Garth Snow and it is no guarantee that he will resign. But once the dealing period had passed, the Islanders not only held onto Blake, but also made a blockbuster deal.
Snow acquired left-winger Ryan Smyth from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for former first round selections Robert Nillson and Ryan O’Mara, and a 2007 first round draft pick. A hefty price when you consider that Smyth can bolt after the season when his current deal runs out.
Smyth, 31, was in contract negotiations with Edmonton up until twenty minutes before the trading deadline time. He was looking for a five-year deal worth $5.5 million each season. Will Islanders owner Charles Wang lock him up before the deal blows up in his face?
The team has to be applauded for making such a bold move. Currently, they are tied for the seventh seed in the East with the Montreal Canadians with 72 points. They have a legitimate shot to qualify for the postseason. For an organization that is trying to build up their attendance, a move such as this can definitely help.
On Thursday, Smyth played his first game with his new team. 12,263 fans gathered to welcome their new hero to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. In the first period, Smyth earned an assist on a goal by his close friend, Mike Sillinger. Unfortunately, the St. Louis Blues were victorious, 3-2 in overtime. The Islanders were shutting out the hapless Blues until the final three minutes of the third period. Then St. Louis went on a flurry and deadlocked the score, sending the contest into the extra period. The team looks to rebound in their next game on Saturday when they visit the Washington Capitals.
Smyth attended his first practice with the Islanders on Thursday morning and attracted quite a crowd. Their brethren from as far as Canada joined reporters from the local area. After the morning skate, an impromptu press conference took place to introduce Smyth to the media, and he was handed his number 94 jersey.
“I look forward to this new chapter with the Islanders and making a run for the [Stanley] Cup,” Smyth told reporters. “I’m just one player and that doesn’t make a team, but hopefully, I’ll be a piece to the puzzle that gives this team an opportunity to win the Cup.”
Humble words from the player nicknamed ‘Captain Canada.’ The Alberta native grew up an Oilers fan in the 1980’s when they had their dynasty. He is a four-time 30-goal scorer and has been enjoying a productive 2006-07 season. Currently, he has 31 goals and 22 assists for 53 points. Islander fans can only hope that Smyth sticks around for a long time.