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Here's a shocker out of Edmonton, hours before Mark Messier's jersey retirement ceremony: Ryan Smyth has been traded to the New York Islanders for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O'Marra and a first-round pick. It's a surprising deal, especially given it was rumoured that Smyth and the Oilers were close to a contract extension, but that's a ton of return for a player who could potentially return to Edmonton as a UFA (depending on how failed contract negotiations were left, of course). One of the most interesting things about the deal is the Islanders' position in the standings, as GM Garth Snow's troops are far from guaranteed a playoff spot. There had been a ton of speculation leading up to the deadline that Snow would be dealing pending UFA Jason Blake today, as well as perhaps a few of his other soon-to-be free agents (Tom Poti, Viktor Kozlov, Chris Simon, Randy Robitaille), but he's pulled a complete 180 and apparently gone whole hog towards the playoffs.

With the additions of Richard Zednik yesterday and Ryan Smyth today, here's a look at the Islanders' line-up: Smyth - Yashin - Blake Simon - Kozlov - Satan Zednik - Sillinger - Hunter Tambellini - Nielsen - Asham This has to be disheartening news for fan in Edmonton, given Smyth's longevity with the franchise, but the return here is immense - possibly even surpassing what the Flyers received for Peter Forsberg. Nilsson and O'Marra were both first rounders (in 2003 and 2005) and bring tremendous offensive potential. Nilsson, the son of former NHL great Kent, was projected to make the Isles this season, but instead has spent the entire year in the AHL with Bridgeport, where he has 45 points in 50 games. Nilsson's an excellent stickhandler and playmaker, an undersized European-style skater who needs to improve his strength and defensive game. O'Marra, meanwhile, is still in junior hockey with the OHL's Saginaw Spirit. Born in Tokyo, O'Marra was an assistant captain for Team Canada at the Under-18 tournament before joining the world junior team in 2006 and 2007, where he won back-to-back gold medals. In terms of playing style, O'Marra is an all-around centreman who has a great shot and plays a strong physical game. He's also not overly big, but is tough and a great competitor. Smyth's contract demands were reportedly in the nature of just more than $22-million over four years, which should be considered in the right ballpark given some of the recent deals awarded players such as Marco Sturm and Darcy Tucker.



jmirtle@globeandmail.com