When the NHL schedule came out yesterday it revealed the Kings will host both the Washington Captials and Pittsburgh Penguins. Sid and Ovi coming to town? Usually that’s enough to talk about on a boring Thursday in June.
Yet, leave it to Dean Lombardi to throw that one out the window.
Then, hours later, he dropped another bomb on the conference call – yes, Ryan Smyth DID ask for a trade.
As discussed here on MayorsManor earlier in the week, Smyth’s team of preference was the Oilers. And our poll showed fans were split on what the Kings should expect in return (results here).
Lombardi, known for his honesty when answering these type of questions, was his usual blunt self…
“This has kind of evolved over the last two months, actually. When Ryan asked to be moved, at first I was really troubled. Ryan, in our first 40 games last year I thought he was one of our better players. He kind of tailed off a little and then, in the playoffs, was one of our best players. And certainly, left wing, it’s not one of our strongest positions. So first off, my reaction was, `No way,’ and I couldn’t figure out why, because I think Ryan had adapted well.”
Over the course of several subsequent conversations, Lombardi came to a sort of peace with the idea – “He was very clear that it had nothing to do with hockey, that it was strictly for his family, that he wanted to go home. I thought about it (for) a week or so and talked to his agent and said, `If it’s a hockey issue, I would not approve of this, because if it’s coaching, the power play, his ice time, who he’s playing with, these are things that we will work through.’ But if it’s a personal thing, a family issue, it’s hard to argue with that and have a player that’s not going to be happy.”
What now? Well it’s a three team race (Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg – with Calgary believed to be the lead dog, provided they can make another trade or two at the draft) and the trade is likely to come today or tomorrow – “I’ve primarily dealt with three teams, and particularly two right now. This kind of hit the front burner last week, in terms of coming out publicly, because of the predicament I was in. I was talking to other teams about getting a left winger if Ryan goes, and teams say, `Why is he going?’ and I had to explain it to them. I tried to move this along because I have to replace him. I’m not in a great position here. We’re just going to have to adapt. I’ve talked to one team a number of times, and they’ve been very forthright in trying to piece it together. I hope to have that wrapped up here in a day or two.”
Although he (somewhat) jokingly said “Maybe he changes his mind now that Mike Richards is in our lineup, I don’t know,” it doesn’t appear that’s going to happen. For family reasons, Smyth wants to return to Canada.
Lombardi went on to say “It’s an awkward situation. I’ve never had this before. It’s nothing I’ve certainly ever planned on. I think his contract is very favorable, in terms of the cash and (it being) the last year, but we’ve got to adjust to it.”
Among the question on everybody’s mind - what will the Kings do at left wing, a position they’re extremely thin at…and would this free up money to make a run at Brad Richards on July 1st?
“Well, just because I made a trade today doesn’t mean I’m free to tamper with whoever I want, so I certainly can’t comment on that,” said the Kings GM.
Would it even be possible? Richards (Brad that is) did play left wing for Tampa Bay during their Stanley Cup run.
No way, it would just be too perfect, right?
As for Smyth, like I’ve been saying all week – he was always a professional when I dealt with him and he was the perfect player to add to the Kings at the time he came over from Colorado.
Outside of game action, here are two memories I’ll have of Smyth - one, I’ve never seen Anze Kopitar smile as much as I did during Smyth’s first practice with the Kings. It was obvious a bro-mance was flourishing and Smyth brought out the best of Kopitar that season.
Second, there was a time Smyth caught me off guard a bit. It was one of the first practices right after the Christmas break this season. When the guys came off the ice he walked up and shook my hand, “Good to see you. How ya doing?” he asked. It was so simple, yet so different. Normally, we’re asking the questions. Instead, he wanted to know how I was.
I was a little shocked. Not as much as Lombardi though.