"You want Ryan Smyth on your team. I think it's a compliment to him. We're in the nature, especially at this time of the year, of guessing and making predictions by saying, 'Well, this team needs this kind of guy and maybe he's available.' By no means will we be shopping him or calling anybody about him, but other teams being interested in Ryan, that just shows you the type of player he is."
-- Avs coach Tony Granato
That key, coming in the form of a no-trade clause, means Smyth can opt to remain with the Colorado Avalanche, or have a say in where he goes should he be asked to waive that clause.
"Players that have the no-trade clause in their contracts believe they've earned it," Smyth told NHL.com "It doesn't stop anybody from trying to talk. It obviously does have to come through my agent and myself. We'll go from there, but that's part of hockey and that's part of having the clause."
It's not surprising that a team prepping for a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs would love to add a player of Smyth's caliber. That fact also isn't lost on Avalanche coach Tony Granato.
"If I'm another team and I'm looking at a team that might be in a position to sell, I'm asking for Ryan Smyth, too," Granato said. "If I'm a team that is first in the conference or borderline making the playoffs or thinks it might be able to get home-ice in the playoffs, I'm calling about Ryan Smyth. That's the kind of player Ryan Smyth is and that's the kind of impact he could have on any team.
“You want Ryan Smyth on your team. I think it's a compliment to him. We're in the nature, especially at this time of the year, of guessing and making predictions by saying, 'Well, this team needs this kind of guy and maybe he's available.' By no means will we be shopping him or calling anybody about him, but other teams being interested in Ryan, that just shows you the type of player he is."
The Avalanche have struggled this season and are 10 points out of the last playoff position in the Western Conference. When asked whether he wanted to stay in Colorado, a city he enjoys, Smyth gave the ultimate competitor's answer.
"I want to win and we're not doing as well as we'd like to," Smyth said. "But at the end of the day it's a great city."
What makes Smyth so desirable to opposing teams is that he is willing to pay the price to win the battles along the boards and in front of the net.
"He's a real hard-working player and a smart player at the same time," teammate Paul Stastny said. "He's a good player down low. He's always going to take advantage of the situation and give his best effort. It took a couple games to get used to playing with him, but now I know where he's going to be and what he's going to do with the puck. It's always good to have a wing that works hard to win the battles along the boards."
Both Stastny and Smyth pride themselves on doing the dirty work to score, making them throwback players. The two are throwbacks in another respect as they eschew the modern composite sticks for ones more prominent in the past.
"He uses a wooden blade and I use a full wooden stick," Stastny said. "We are so used to our sticks growing up and neither of us have the heavier shot, so I don't think that it effects us too much. If you look at most of our goals, most of them are going to be from up close and just a couple feet from the crease, so I don't think that you need a one-piece stick to shoot that hard when you're that close. We just try to get the ugly goals and it doesn't matter how."
In addition to his strong NHL play, Smyth has earned the nickname “Captain Canada” because he always has answered his country's call for international competition. He has represented Canada in seven World Championships, two Olympics, a World Cup and a World Junior Championship. But Smyth won't concede that he is destined for another appearance in the World Championship this spring should he not waive his no-trade clause.
"You can't look too far ahead," Smyth said. "Obviously I would love to be in the playoffs and that's my first and foremost goal. I want to win a Stanley Cup. We still have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs. We just want to work our way into the playoffs."
Competitiveness like that is contagious, and Colorado rookie Chris Stewart was more than content to spend some time playing on Smyth's line.
"A leader like Ryan Smyth is sort of the unsung hero of this team," Stewart said. "Just the way he works out there. It's a privilege to have an opportunity to play with a player like Smyth."
Contact Adam Schwartz at email@example.com.