The Flyers unveiled another new piece to their off-season puzzle as they introduced veteran defenseman Jason Smith on Wednesday at the Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone. Smith was acquired in a trade on July 1, along with winger, Joffrey Lupul from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for winger Geoff Sanderson and defenseman Joni Pitkanen.
In Smith, the Flyers get a solid defenseman, who brings character and leadership into the locker room and onto the ice. Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren says that Smith is the type of player that knows how to play Flyer-style hockey.
“Jason is a heart-and-soul player,” said Holmgren. “As I have said before, he is literally one of those guys that will do whatever it takes to win. We are extremely excited about having him on our team and on board. Jason is going to be a big, big part of our team in the future.”
While Smith, the Oilers former captain, is excited to be part of the Flyers future plans, he did admit that the trade shocked him.
“I was a little surprised off the start but once it took a little bit of time to settle in, I looked at it as another great opportunity,” Smith said. “I had a lot of fun playing in Edmonton and played with great people, but I am really looking forward to playing here for a long time and playing with some great young players and having a lot of success in Philadelphia.”
Smith also plans on continuing to be a leader on his new team.
“I want to come to the rink and be a stable force,” he said. “I want to be a guy that the young guys can feel comfortable around. I want to go out and play a solid game every night, and lead by example.”
John Stevens further spoke to Smith’s character when he discussed the comments from some of Smith’s former teammates in Edmonton.
“If you read the comments from the players in Edmonton after the trade, they felt like their left arm got ripped off because Jason was leaving town,” said Stevens. “Sometimes you hear what his peers and teammates have to say, and that really tells you what they think about him and the true value he brings to a hockey team.”
Smith won’t have to wait long either to make his return to Edmonton, as the Flyers play the Oilers in Edmonton on October 6: the team’s second game of the season. The 2007-08 schedule was also released on Wednesday.
“It should be fun to go back,” Smith said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing in Alberta. I know I will have a lot of family and friends there and hopefully we will start the season off really well.”
Stevens believes with Smith and the other new players in the lineup this season will be a turn around from last year’s disappointing one.
“We are going to get back to playing Flyers hockey that we are accustomed to,” Stevens said. “If you look at Jason, he is just a hard guy to play against and that is what we want to be. We want to be an extremely hard-working team and very difficult to play against. A guy like Jason is going to lead the way.”