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Reilly Smith Fires Back on Rumors, ‘Totally Baseless’

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Reilly Smith, Evgeni Malkin

CALGARY, Alberta — The rumors have grown so loud and so widely accepted as to become common knowledge, if not fact. You’ve heard the chatter that has been widespread for a couple of months: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Reilly Smith is unhappy in Pittsburgh.

Perhaps the only person who hasn’t heard that talk is the player himself.

Smith, 32, has heard the trade rumors. It’s hard not to. The other stuff caught him by surprise. In a conversation after practice at the Saddledome Friday, Pittsburgh Hockey Now gave Smith a chance to respond … to everything.

Smith initially was taken aback by the pointed question. There’s a great deal of talk that he’s unhappy in Pittsburgh and wants to return to the Vegas Golden Knights, where he was revered as an original Misfit and, as of last June, a Stanley Cup champion.

How did he respond? He gave the slightest snort and a disbelieving head tilt before beginning.

“I mean, I’d say it’s pretty baseless,” Smith said before a lengthy pause. “Just baseless opinions of people.”

Smith was sitting in his locker stall and had not yet taken off his skates when he agreed to talk. After calling the rumor baseless, his pause lasted for five seconds. As he shifted in his seat, his arms folded, he was at a loss for words.

His tone was brusque.

Smith has 25 points, including 10 goals, in 51 games, but six of those goals came in October. His lengthy dry spell further exacerbated the chatter surrounding Smith, drawing the unwanted attention for an otherwise quiet player.

Thursday night in Seattle, he shifted around the Penguins’ lineup. In Jake Guentzel’s absence because of injury, Smith has played with Sidney Crosby. By the third period Thursday, however, he was back on the third line with Lars Eller.

Goals haven’t been easy to come by since October, but Smith does have three points in his last five games, though just four goals in his last 40 games.

It’s easy to say things are untrue, and it would be foolish to ignore the possibility that Smith simply wouldn’t admit it, especially to a media member, but his physical reaction was part of the response.

Take it for what you will.

NHL Trade Deadline

Smith is being dangled ahead of the NHL trade deadline.

The other set of rumors, Smith has heard. Those, he can do nothing about and there probably is some truth to them. Multiple reputable national reporters have reported some level of interest from other teams.

Must Read: More Teams Interested in Acquiring Smith?

Trade rumors are a part of being an NHL player. After all, the Golden Knights dealt Smith to the Penguins last June. Smith didn’t push back on those rumors. Friends and family have sent them to him, and they’ve been inescapable, especially as they’ve surfaced in the largest Canadian national outlets.

“I think you’re aware of it. It’s kind of a weird time of year,” Smith told PHN. “But you just focus on what you can control, and a lot of that you can’t control. So there’s no point stressing about those things.”

Smith’s contract carries a $5 million average annual value through the end of next season. And yes, Vegas is one of the many teams looking for scoring help on the wings.  The trade chatter, he can’t control.

The unhappiness with Pittsburgh or the desire to go back to Vegas, where he was quite popular and raised substantial sums for charity, is something he can control.

And he firmly said, not true.