Sherwood Park, AB - Negotiations came down to the 11th hour, but Ryan Smyth has re-signed and will be remain in orange and blue past his 38th birthday.
The 17-year NHL veteran signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal Sunday morning, mere minutes before becoming an unrestricted free agent at 10:00am MT.
"It's why I wanted to come back," he said, clearly excited, over the phone. "This team has so much upside and getting to be a part of, what I believe is something very special, is nice. I'm excited to be part of the growing process. I'm very, very humbled."
Smyth, agent Don Meehan and General Manager Steve Tambellini were hunkered down in back-and-forth discussions over the past couple days leading up to Jul. 1. Saturday evening, Tambellini said he'd hoped a deal would get done prior to the market opening, but the debate spilled over into Sunday.
The Smyth camp was reportedly looking for more money, but in the end he signed a reasonable contract that's in line with a league-wide comparable: Detroit's Todd Bertuzzi. The 37-year-old collected 38 points in 71 games in 2011-12 and is slated to make $2.075 million next season.
"It still happened pretty quick and negotiations are always quick processes to some degree," Smyth said. "There are always things you deal with on the business side and it's nice to get that over and done with.
"Now it's time to go out and play. It's a great opportunity to go out and get ourselves back in the post-season."
Smyth, 36, scored 19 goals and 46 points in all 82 games last season. However, 26 of them were recorded at a point-per-game pace to start the campaign, giving him only 20 points in the remaining 56 games.
What kind of role will he play next season? It could certainly be a more unique one than he's used to considering the Oilers' loaded Top 6, particularly with the addition of Nail Yakupov on the wing.
"We had discussions about all that," Smyth said. "Wherever the coaches feel I fit in, it's just nice to be a piece of the puzzle. That's all you want. Eventually the puzzle will be completed and it's because of all the pieces that go into it.
"Every time you step on the ice, it's all about opportunity. Everybody has an opportunity to have success as a team in the NHL -- and as a group of individuals, we have a great opportunity to not only establish the youth, energy and excitement on a day-to-day basis, but to take it to another level and reach the common goal together.
"That's about making a return to the post-season and then winning the Stanley Cup."
Heading into the season, it's possible that Smyth, Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky will compose the team's third line. Sprinkled with power-play and shorthanded time, Smyth will still be expected to bring his game to another level. He noticed the slowdown late last year, but is ready to re-discover the pace that made him one of the Oilers' leading goal-scorers early on.
"I want to play as long as I can," he said. "I felt really good last year; I was strong, confident and that goes back to the year before in LA. My body still feels good and I want to play. I played in all 82 games last year, I want to do the same this year and build on the success I had.
"I love this city and I love this team. I'm happy to be back again."