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After drawing many suitors, Smyth picks Colorado

NEW YORK -- "Captain Canada" Ryan Smyth has found a new
home with the Colorado Avalanche.

Ryan Smyth

Smyth

Left Wing
New York Islanders

Profile

Late in a frenzied first day of free-agent signing, Smyth -- the
last remaining topflight forward -- left the New York Islanders on
Sunday night for a return trip to the Western Conference.

Smyth agreed to a five-year deal worth $31.25 million with the
Avalanche, who are looking to quickly rebuild a franchise that
missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1994 -- two
years before the team relocated to Denver from Quebec.

"Ryan is a proven, top-tier athlete in the NHL who will be an
outstanding fit with our club's continued philosophy and goal of
providing our fans with a dynamic and exciting product," Avalanche
general manager Francois Giguere said. "He's a player that
exemplifies grit, determination and courage and will be among the
future leaders of this franchise."

Islanders general manager Garth Snow, who made retaining Smyth
his top priority, got the bad news that Smyth was leaving Long
Island from the forward's agent, Don Meehan.

"It was obviously not what we wanted to hear, but I appreciated
the call," Snow said. "Don said we were right in it for Ryan's
services until the very end and it was one of the hardest decisions
he'd ever been a part of."

The Islanders acquired Smyth from the Edmonton Oilers just
minutes before the NHL trade deadline in February. New York gave up
two former first-round picks plus this year's No. 1 selection to
get him, but couldn't make the big move stick by signing him to a
long-term contract.

"Ryan decided it was best for him and his family to sign with
Colorado," Snow said. "The Avalanche are very fortunate to have
him and we wish Ryan and his family the best. I said when I made
the trade to acquire Ryan from Edmonton that it's a deal I'd do
over and over again.

Ryan decided it was best for him and his family to sign with Colorado. The Avalanche are very fortunate to have him and we wish Ryan and his family the best. I said when I made the trade to acquire Ryan from Edmonton that it's a deal I'd do over and over again.

Isles GM Garth Snow

"My feelings on the move to bring Ryan Smyth to Long Island
have not changed."

The left winger has 270 goals in 788 regular-season games and 23
in 73 postseason contests. He reached 20 goals eight times and 30
on four occasions.

"At 31, we feel he can continue to play at a high level and
make an impact in this league for years to come," Giguere said.

Smyth's departure capped a very tough day for the Islanders, who
lost several key free agents -- including their top two scorers from
last season.

All they had to show from a busy first day of free-agent
negotiations was a deal with forward Jon Sim, who left the Atlanta
Thrashers for a three-year, $3 million deal.

The Avalanche, however, made Smyth their second acquisition of
the day after they inked former San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan to
a four-year, $18 million contract. That marked the first time
Colorado spoiled the Islanders plans Sunday.

"We had a few conversations with Hannan and made him an offer
right on par with what he signed for," Snow said. "Scott told us
he was flattered by our interest and intrigued by the opportunity
to play for [Islanders coach] Ted Nolan, but his first choice was
to stay in the West. We weren't surprised when he went to the
Avalanche."

Smyth also watched former Buffalo co-captains Chris Drury and
Daniel Briere leave the Presidents' Trophy- winning Sabres earlier
in the day for big deals with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia
Flyers, respectively, before making his move.

Scott Gomez also joined the Rangers on Sunday, leaving the New
Jersey Devils for a seven-year deal worth $51.5 million.

Smyth was dealt to the Islanders by the Oilers in a stunning
deal at the trade deadline. Known as "Captain Canada" for his
experience with his home country's national teams, the Alberta
native was shipped out of Edmonton after spending his first 11-plus
NHL seasons there.

He turned down a multiyear offer from the Oilers that would've
paid him more than $5 million a season and was traded to the
Islanders for former first-round picks Robert Nilsson and
Ryan O'Marra. Edmonton took defenseman Alex Plante last weekend with the
draft choice they got from New York.

Smyth's departure capped a rough first free-agency opener for
Snow, who retired as a player last July to immediately take over as
Islanders GM from the fired Neil Smith.

In the opening hours of the signing period Sunday, the Islanders
lost leading scorer Jason Blake (Toronto), fellow forward
Viktor Kozlov and top defenseman Tom Poti to the Washington Capitals, and
another forward, Richard Zednik, to Florida.

"This organization has nothing but the utmost pride in Blakey
and a deep appreciation for the player he became on Long Island,"
Snow said.

Smyth finished second on the club with 68 points and provided
necessary leadership New York needed in its dressing room. The
Islanders added Sim, a 30-year-old, grinding right winger who had
17 goals and 12 assists in 77 games with Atlanta last season.

"Jon Sim is an aggressive, hardworking veteran forward with
good offensive skills who fits in perfectly with Ted Nolan's
system," Snow said.

In 307 NHL games over eight NHL seasons, the 5-10, 190-pound Sim
posted 52 goals and 45 assists.

"I really like Jonathan's game and I believe he's an excellent
addition for us," Nolan said. "He's a tenacious player who
doesn't take off a shift. He's exactly the kind of player we want
for the Islanders."

Blake, who had career highs of 40 goals and 69 points last
season, signed a five-year, $20 million contract with the Maple
Leafs. Kozlov, who had a career-best 25 goals and 51 points with
New York, turned that into a two-year, $5 million deal with the
Capitals. He will team again with Poti, an offensive-minded
defenseman who put up 44 points in his only season with the
Islanders.

Poti received a four-year, $14 million contract from the
Capitals. Zednik, also acquired shortly before the trade deadline,
signed a two-year deal worth $3.25 million with the Panthers.

The Islanders also bought out the contract of former captain
Alexei Yashin after the season, and were prepared to make Smyth the
new captain if they could have convinced him to stay.

Regardless of whom New York signs to replace the lost parts,
those players will be in front of goalie Rick DiPietro, who is set
to enter the second season of his landmark 15-year contract with
the Islanders.