Saturday, March 23, 2013
Does he stay or does he go? What to do with Ladislav Smid
The fact the Edmonton Oilers have yet to sign defenceman Ladislav Smid to an extension seems rather curious. For a team that is already thin on the backend and lacking anyone that brings what the hard-nosed blueliner brings on a nightly basis, one would think General Manager Steve Tambellini would have had the veteran signed to an extension some time ago.
By allowing this to drag out in the manner they have, the organization is now stuck with a very uncomfortable situation. Instead of focusing on the team making a push towards earning their first playoff birth since 2006, we are left wondering if Smid's time in Oilers silks is nearing an end.
From the moment they acquired the former ninth overall pick as part of the package that landed the Anaheim Ducks Chris Pronger prior to the 2007-08 season, much was expected from the talented rearguard. While he had his share of ups and downs over his first five seasons in Edmonton, Smid has morphed into the Oilers top stay-at-home defenceman over the last couple of years.
He finished the 2011-12 campaign with 186 blocked shots, good enough for seventh in the league, and was thirteenth among defencemen with 184 hits. Through the first twenty-nine games of the abbreviated 2013 calender, Smid currently sits third in the NHL with 81 blocks and is ranked fifth among all blueliners with 90 hits. Are you seeing the pattern here? In the vast majority of hockey circles, the Oilers #5 would be referred to as a "warrior"...which is exactly what he is.
Does he have limitations to his game? He certainly does Smid has next to no offence upside to his game and sometimes tries to block too many shots, instead of staying on his feet. That being said, he has averaged over twenty minutes a night in each of the last two seasons and has become Edmonton's shutdown/penalty killing specialist on the backend. There is very little glory and next to no fanfare in playing the role he does and Smid excels at it.
However, with his latest two year extension set to expire on April 27th, which has paid him an annual salary of $2.25 million, Tambellini and company need to figure out where to go from here. While you can bet the Oilers GM would love to sign Smid to a deal in the neighbourhood of $3 -$3.5 million, that seems highly unlikely. Now should the club offer the veteran defenceman a $3.5 million salary over the next five to six years, that would be another matter altogether.
The Montreal Canadiens decided to pay Josh Gorges $3.9 million over the next six years. Edmonton would be crazy to follow the Habs lead and do the same with Smid. If anything, overpaying him on a three year deal, would make far more sense in the long run. You would have to think a three year deal that would pay him somewhere between $12-$13 million and leave him the opportunity to hit the UFA market again at the age of thirty, could entice the big man to sign on the dotted line.
There is no question it would be an overpayment on the Oilers part but you can almost guarantee Smid would get at least that, with probably a little more term, on the open market. Edmonton is not a team with cap issues and likely won't be for another two to three years. Making a three year term for the tough as nails defender the perfect fit.
The other thing the organization most stay away from, is signing second tier guys to long term extensions. Does anyone honestly believe Laddy Smid will remain intact. over the next five to six years, playing the game the way he does? His style of play puts him at a higher risk for injury than most and would almost certainly lead towards his body breaking down quicker, in the long run.
The plan should be for the organization to have players during their peak years...not during the downside of their career. Having Smid play alongside Jeff Petry and Justin Schultz, both due for hefty increases after the 2013-2014 campaign, can only help with their development and make the team that much stronger.
We all now that the moment this organization decides to move him in a deal, they will be looking for his replacement the very next day and have a heck of a time finding one. Not to mention the fact, that he has always said he wants to stay in Edmonton and appears to be one of the true leaders inside that dressing room.
Edmonton's roster is currently filled with a lot of young talented players and a bunch of older guys on the back half of their careers. They have very few of those players in their mid-to-late 20's, when they are typically entering the prime years of their career. Smid is one of those guys and has become an almost irreplaceable piece, within the fabric of this team.
Now there is a chance Ladislav Smid decides to give the Edmonton Oilers a bit of a "hometown discount" but don't believe for a second, that it will be a substantial one. As much as a player may want to stay in certain place, at the end of the day, they have to take care of themselves and their families. For a player like Smid, this may be his one and only crack at landing a substantial payday and he would be foolish to not take advantage of it.
Which ultimately leaves the decision in the organization's hands. Not exactly the best situation to be in but one which Steve Tambellini brought upon himself, by not being proactive and trying to get a deal done in advance of the NHL Lockout. Having said that, this franchise is in no position to allow a player like Smid to walk away via free agency.
At this stage of the game, it is pretty curt and dry. There are two options: sign him or trade him. For the club's sake, let's hope it is not the latter...unless of course, the return is simply too good to pass up.