NHL NEWS: Oilers re-sign Ladislav Smid, 4 years @ $14m

ladislav smid

The Edmonton Oilers have announced that they have re-signed defenceman Ladislav Smid to a 4 year deal at $3.5m per season.  This is a great signing for the Oilers, and perhaps even an underpayment.  Smid is one of the top defensive defencemen in the game today, and likely would have been able to command as much as $4.5m on the free agent market this summer.  However, Smid has consistently stated how much he loves Edmonton and his team-mates, and how he would like to remain a part of the supposed “good times to come” with the team.

Smid was part of the infamous Chris Pronger trade in 2006, when the superstar requested out of Edmonton following their incredible run to the Cup Finals that year, shocking the city and turning him into public enemy number one.  The Oilers, in hindsight, got a great return for Pronger from Anaheim: young sniper Joffrey Lupul, 2004 9th Overall Pick Ladislav Smid (then a promising 2-way defender in the AHL), their 1st round pick in 2007, their 2008 2nd round pick, and a conditional 1st round pick should the Ducks win the Cup in the following 3 years.  Joffrey Lupul had an awful season in Edmonton and was traded with Jason Smith to the Flyers for a 3rd round pick, Geoff Sanderson and Joni Pitkanen (the latter of whom was traded a year later to Carolina for Erik Cole, who the following year was traded back to Carolina for Patrick O’Sullivan; he was in turn later traded to Phoenix for Jim Vandermeer who left as a free agent in 2011, ending that strand of the trade except for the 3rd rounder in 2009 which the Oilers used to select useless enforcer Cam Abney, currently toiling in the ECHL and whose contract will likely not be renewed).

The 2007 1st rounder was used to select Riley Nash, who was later traded to Carolina before he ever signed with Edmonton for a 2nd round pick in 2010 which was used to select promising 6’4″ defenceman Martin Marincin, currently in his first AHL season and a potential top 4 NHL d-man.

The 2008 2nd rounder was traded to the Islanders for Allan Rourke and a 3rd round pick (originally belonging to the Oilers but included with Bergeron in the trade for Grebeshkov).  That 3rd round pick was used as part of the compensation to Anaheim in the Dustin Penner offer sheet.  Penner spent several pretty productive in Edmonton before being traded to LA for defensive prospect Colten Teubert (currently struggling in the AHL), a 1st round pick in 2011 (used to draft defenceman Oscar Klefbom, an extremely promising young player) and a 3rd round pick in 2012 (used to select forward Daniil Zharkov, who had an okay year in the OHL this year).

The conditional 1st round pick came into being as Anaheim won the Cup in 2007, and with that pick Edmonton selected Jordan Eberle in 2008.  Eberle has developed into one of the teams’ top offensive stars, highly regarded around the league.

And now to Ladislav Smid.  Smid was 20 at the time of his trade to Edmonton, and nobody expected him to make the Oilers for another year or so.  However, he impressed in training camp, and the Oilers were desperate for defenders, so he made the team and despite possessing an unusual calm under pressure he struggled.  Indeed, he struggled for the next 3 seasons at least, not showing a great deal of improvement but still showing flashes of what he could do.  The most important thing Smid showed was a willingness to change for the benefit of the team.  He was originally believed to be a potential 2-way defenceman, but the offensive side of his game didn’t translate to the big leagues.  At one point he was barely on the team, but Smid openly stated he would do whatever it took to carve a role for himself.  Right around the time Edmonton traded for Lubomir Visnovsky, Smid came into his own.  He was calming down his play with the puck, and positionally was a thousand times better.  He was also more willing to play physically and one of the most likely players on the team to stand up for his fellow Oilers.

Fast forward to 2011/12.  Jeff Petry, a young defender not long out of college whom the Oilers had drafted in 2006, made the team full time and eventually found himself paired with Smid.  The two would form great chemistry together, with Smid’s defensive abilities and Petry’s two-way style, and were a bona fide top-4 pairing in the league.  Indeed, by many metrics they were a genuine top-pairing duo, simultaneously shutting down the best opposition thrown their way whilst moving the puck in the right direction more often than not.

Other than Smid and Petry, the Oilers d-corps has been pretty putrid.  They traded a top two-way defender (Gilbert) for a third-pairing shutdown guy (N.Schultz), Corey Potter was not the player he seemed to be in 2011, Theo Peckham has struggled with consistency, Andy Sutton proved useful but has suffered a likely career-ending injury, but most importantly Ryan Whitney – a fantastic player, a genuine top-pairing guy for Edmonton in 2010 and 2011 when healthy – has seen his career in tatters after an ankle operation to repair a genetic problem.  The guy can barely pivot on his skates anymore, leading to many awful defensive plays.  Justin Schultz was a major score for Edmonton (again, from Anaheim), but he is a rookie and still adjusting to the league.

In the meantime, Smid is the Oilers longest serving defenceman, a warrior and a leader, and to lose him at this stage of the rebuild would have been catastrophic.

£3.5m per year is a great price point, and 4 years is neither too long nor too short.

Good to have you on board, Ladi.

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