Thursday March 1st, 2007

NY Islanders get LW Ryan Smyth

The consensus heading into the deadline was that if the Isles were going to be active today, it would have involved the sale of impending UFA Jason Blake.

But to add Smyth to their lineup instead? Wow. This easily qualifies as the most stunning deal of the day.

Smyth ranks as the most significant addition in the East and gives the Islanders a much better shot of grabbing one of the final playoff spots.

Of all the players dealt today, none is a surer bet to make an immediate impact on his new club. If you watched Smyth during Edmonton's run to the Cup Finals last season, you understand exactly what he brings to the Isles. Obviously, his soft hands and willingness to work in the trenches will provide a boost to their 26th-ranked power play, and an upgrade in that area alone should get them into the postseason. But Smyth's real value is measured by his intangibles. He's the ultimate warrior. Passionate. A winner.

As one of those who questioned the wisdom of hiring Garth Snow, I have to give the Isles rookie GM top marks for his first big deal.

Edmonton gets 2007 first-rounder, Robert Nilsson and Ryan O'Marra

No franchise has been forced to make more tough business decisions than the Oilers. After the Wayne Gretzky trade nearly 20 years ago, this one may have been the most difficult.

GM Kevin Lowe spent the day trying to sign Smyth before coming to the conclusion that there wasn't a deal to be made. Facing the possibility of losing him for nothing at the end of the season, he pulled the trigger with the Isles and got a decent -- but not great -- package of talent in return.

Nilsson, the son of Oilers' scout Kent Nilsson, was the 15th overall pick in 2003. One of the top prospects in the sparsely populated Isles' system, he's an offensively gifted left winger with a gritty style that belies his 5-10, 175-pound frame. There are questions about his desire, however, and he needs to improve his consistency if he wants to live up to his potential. He's no lock to be a player for the Oilers.

O'Marra, the 15th overall pick in 2005, is a safer bet. He's a banging center who projects to be a fixture on the checking line a couple years down the road.

That's not bad for a last minute deal on a rental. But it begs the question that Lowe will have to answer: was this the best he could do for such a valuable asset? Chances are if he'd put Smyth on the market even 24 hours ago, the return would have been more significant in an auction environment.

But that's the thing with tough decisions. You do what you have to do, and you wait for the second-guessing to begin. By my estimate, it starts now.

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