Kings Offseason Gets Interesting: Ryan Smyth Wants Out


This is a huge week for hockey, with the Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, the Draft starting on Friday and at some point the 2011-12 schedule should be released before the week is out. Now, according to multiple reports out of the Canada, and TSN’s Bob McKenzie in particular, Kings winger Ryan Smyth is said to like a trade back home to Edmonton to finish out his career. The move shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as the Alberta native came up with the Oilers, cried when he was traded to New York, and is on the same perch as Gretzky in Edmonton.

Despite McKenzie’s tweets, Smyth has denied the rumors, yet both the LA Times’ Helene Elliott and the Kings’ Rich Hammond have confirmed that GM Dean Lombardi has had preliminary talks with the Oilers.

With the NHL Draft starting on Friday, the time is perfect for a trade, given that free agency kicks off in just  nine days. Smyth is due over $4 million this upcoming season, but his cap hit of $6.25 million is a big threshold in the Kings acquiring a top-six forward, like free agent Brad Richards. Moving the aging Smyth actually plays to the Kings advantage, as now it would seem that the Kings would be able to acquire not one, but two forwards.

The options for dealing Smyth vary, including the first round draft pick that the Kings sent to Edmonton for Dustin Penner, and even the Kings adding more to the pot to acquire winger Ales Hemsky. The more likely scenario however, is a mid-round pick with the Oilers absorbing Smyth’s cap-hit as they are an astounding $11 million under the new cap floor of $48 million, as confirmed by TSN.

Should the Kings move Smyth without receiving a player in return, the current forward lines would look something like this:

Penner – Kopitar – Williams

[VACANT] – Stoll – Brown

Clifford – Richardson – Simmonds

Parse-Lewis – Westgarth

With $6.25 million of a cap money being cleared with a potential deal of Ryan Smyth, the possibilities are quite endless. Brad Richards now becomes a more likely scenario, as well as the lurking Brayden Schenn, who should likely break camp with the Kings.

According to Rich Hammond, the Kings have internally toyed with the idea of moving Schenn to left wing, likely in hopes of acquiring Richards who spent his time in Dallas centering the top line.  Is Schenn capable of playing on the wing in the NHL? We can’t be sure. Andrei Loktionov struggled in his time on the wing last season, yet blossomed at center, his natural position. The Russian, however lacks the size and presence of Schenn.

The long-term plan for Brayden Schenn is to play center in the NHL, and presumably, for a long, long time. So why move him to accommodate Richards? Richards is quite capable on the wing and even in drifting to the point, where he was pivotal on the Dallas power play. As a versatile power forward, Richards on a line centered by Schenn has to be beneficial for Schenn’s progression. Add in the fact that Dustin Brown is the incumbent second line right winger, and Schenn’s role at center is strictly playmaking, due to the size and instincts of Richards, and the physical nature of Brown.

Pairing Richards and Schenn together on the second line, brings us to a lineup of this:

Penner- Kopitar – Williams

Richards – Schenn – Brown

Clifford – Richardson – Simmonds

Parse – Stoll – Lewis

Lewis gets bumped from center, and Stoll drops to the fourth line, while Westgarth is rightfully eliminated from contention.

Now is where the cap room comes into play. With Scott Parse as an unknown in the NHL based on his injury history and inexperience, an upgrade at wing through free agency would allow the Kings to roll four solid lines, and get rid of Terry Murray’s ‘spart parts’ themed fourth line.

Free agents like Ville Leino and Simon Gagne would be interesting fits for the Kings. Leino has two years of experience in the NHL, and posted a 50-point season with the Flyers. A 19-goal scorer would fit well with Jarret Stoll at center.  Yet at the same time, Alexei Ponikarovsky was billed as exactly the same player a year ago and he was shown to struggle in Terry Murray’s system.

Simon Gagne was set to be traded to the Kings last July, but it never panned out. In 63 games with Tampa Bay, he scored 17, and then had 12 points in 15 playoff games. Injuries, however, are a concern for Gagne, who has missed parts 2008, 2010 and 2011. Of the two, Leino is the safer bet, and presumably cheaper as well.

Despite the reluctance of Dean Lombardi to negotiate with restricted free agents of other clubs, Devin Setoguchi of San Jose would be tempting. The 24-year-old has scored at least 20 goals in all three seasons as a Shark, and is at the heart of the Sharks’ strong secondary attack along with center Joe Pavelski. Signing Setoguchi would be a double dip for Lombardi, but again, Lombardi has never made a gutsy move in Los Angeles and he is hesitant to sign RFAs.

With that said, signing Leino would round out the fourth line and leave the Kings with this:

Penner – Kopitar – Williams

Richards – Schenn – Brown

Clifford – Richardson – Simmonds

Leino – Stoll – Lewis

Those would ideally be four strong lines for the Kings to enter camp with, and challenge internal roster candidates to force the Kings hand at the of breaking camp. Guys like Maxim Kitsyn and Andrei Loktionov are still somewhere in Dean Lombardi’s plans, and should they progress over the summer, a veteran like Jarret Stoll suddenly becomes a trade candidate.

Ah, it’s only Tuesday of the first week official week of the offseason,  yet we’re already knee deep in “what-ifs”. By the way, Lombardi is hinting that the Drew Doughty deal could be looming.