As if this week didn’t hold enough anxiety for Vernon’s Jerred Smithson.
Already expecting the birth of his first child with fiancée Jaymie Hackman, Smithson, a centre with the NHL Florida Panthers, got a call from GM Dale Tallon Wednesday saying he had been traded to the Edmonton Oilers.
Hackman, a former Kal Laker tennis star, was expected to be induced that night in Sunrise.
“You can’t imagine what’s going on in my head right now,” Smithson told The Morning Star shortly after the trade. “It’s mayhem.”
Smithson, a 34-year-old defensive specialist, spoke briefly with Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini about the trade, which helped put his mind at ease. The Oilers sent a fourth-round pick to Florida in the deal.
“He welcomed me to the organization and the team, and they were very understanding of my situation. It’s family first.
“It was nice to be wanted. Anytime you get traded there’s lots of things going through your mind.”
Smithson had three goals and two assists in 35 games for the Panthers, but his primary value comes in the faceoff circle, and on the penalty kill. He led the Panthers with a 54.8 faceoff percentage, which will immediately improve the Oilers’ league-worst 45 per cent.
Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger told the media: “Smithson will add to our defensive structure. He’s a 53/54 per cent faceoff guy who brings size and depth into our group.”
This is Smithson’s fourth NHL team, and second in two seasons. He was dealt to Florida from Nashville at last year’s trade deadline. He said being traded for the second time doesn’t make the process any easier, especially with Hackman about to go into labour.
“If anything, it’s night and day,” he said, comparing the Nashville trade to Wednesday. “It’s just the timing. We’ll make it work. That’s the game of hockey and you have to be able to adapt.”
Tallon told the Miami Herald: “I feel bad about that, he is a solid pro and a classy guy.
“I have to think about the long-term future of the franchise. That’s the business part of it that happens. Sometimes it sucks. You’re dealing with family and friends. We told him we would do everything we can to help.’’
Smithson doesn’t expect to line up with the Oilers’ young guns like Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle. If anything, he hopes to balance their finesse and firepower with grit and a workmanlike effort.
“It (trade) won’t change anything I do. I’ve been playing the same way since I came in the league,” said Smithson, who will become a free agent this summer. He is in the final year of a two-year $1.6 million contract.
“The Edmonton Oilers and their history and direction they’re going in, I’m excited to be part of that.”
Smithson, who skated with the BCHL Vernon Vipers during the lockout, went undrafted after a five-year WHL career with the Calgary Hitmen, where he accumulated 111 points (47-64) in 319 games. He has 95 points (38-57) in 578 career NHL games.
Meanwhile, the Panthers also lost forward Mike Santorelli, an ex-Viper forward, to Winnipeg before the deadline. The Jets picked him up on waivers.
Santorelli told the Herald he is excited about the opportunity to join a Winnipeg team that currently leads the Southeast Division.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity Winnipeg is giving me and I look forward to helping them out,’’ said Santorelli, a 27-year-old Vancouver product. “It’s an exciting time there. It’s a great place to play. I hope I can help as much as I can.’’
Santorelli led Mike Vandekamp’s 2003-04 Vipers in scoring with 43-53-96 in 60 games.