Ryan Smyth

If this blog existed on July 1, 2007, I'd have written a post about the mass exodus from Long Island. On that day, all of the one-year contracts Garth Snow signed prior to the season expired, and just about every free agent bolted from the Island. Viktor Kozlov and Tom Poti went to Washington. Jason Blake went to Toronto. Richard Zednik went to Florida. Arron Asham went to New Jersey. In essence, the Islanders were gutted, and the only player they acquired that day was Jon Sim - the same Jon Sim who would suffer a season-ending injury in the Islanders' home opener.
As all of the other players left, the Islanders sort of shrugged and looked at the real task at hand. That, of course, was signing Ryan Smyth to a long-term contract, giving him the "C", and making him the focal point of the Islanders. In the weeks leading up to free agency, the Isles attempted to sell Smyth on Long Island and the future of the franchise. It was a future that wasn't overly compromised by the trade to acquire Smyth, as history shows that both Robert Nilsson and Ryan O'Marra have been busts. The Islanders ended up offering Smyth more years and more money than anybody else... but Smyth decided to go back out West and sign with Colorado.
Though Smyth handled the situation really well, praising the Islanders organization on his way out, Islanders fans were devastated. This was their one serious chance to land a marquee free agent, and yet this player took less money to go elsewhere. To put it mildly, that Snow lost maybe his five best players on July 1, 2007 and only walked out with Jon Sim did not make Islanders fans very happy.
Fast-forward to present day. Garth Snow is no longer in the position of handing out one-year contracts to veterans with something to prove just to make a run at the eighth seed. Snow has a team full of young players and quality veterans, all of whom are on manageable contracts. Now, imagine if Ryan Smyth were among those players.
If Smyth were an Islander, the Islanders would be committing upwards of $6 million annually to an injury-prone player who hasn't exactly lit the lamp on a regular basis. Smyth's 40 goals over the past two years would have cost the Islanders around $12 million. For a team that loses money even with a payroll at the salary floor, Smyth's deal would have been crippling. Not to mention that he couldn't have gotten the Islanders teams of the past two years by himself. The Islanders would essentially be replacing Alexei Yashin's inflated contract with another huge deal that couldn't possibly come close to paying dividends. And perhaps, like the Colorado Avalanche have just done, the Islanders would have been forced to trade Smyth for pennies on the dollar in order to start rebuilding.
This isn't intended to trash Ryan Smyth. This is just the reality of the situation. Garth Snow, the Islanders organization, and Islanders fans everywhere should be very thankful that Ryan Smyth spurned the Islanders two years ago. Smyth's decision was a big part of the Islanders' realization that they had to rebuild, and perhaps if Smyth stayed with the Islanders, they'd keep signing crappy veterans in an attempt to win now. By moving on, Smyth saved the Islanders a lot of money and a lot of heartache.