It was affectionately referred to as "MulletGate."
When the Los Angeles Kings traded Ryan Smyth back to his home and native land last summer, the Edmonton Oilers sent back a seventh-round pick and center Colin Fraser on June 26.
The initial deal was for Gilbert Brule, but his concussion prevented the Kings from buying out his contract as planned. Fraser was moved into the deal; the Kings soon discovered that a foot injury suffered at the end of the 2010-11 season would need surgery, preventing Fraser from starting the season with the Kings.
The Kings filed a grievance with the NHL, with GM Dean Lombardi claiming he would "would have rather invested my money in Bernie Madoff than invest in Edmonton's word." When the Oilers asked for patience on his injury rehab, Lombardi said:
"So this is called the red herring method. What you do is say, 'OK, the doctors disagree,' but they don't disagree on the fundamental premise, that this guy is not fit to play. When you want to get the jury off-track, throw out an ancillary issue and turn it into a major issue, and they forget about the real issue. You learn that in the first year of law school. Nice try."
It was all very public and very snippy. MulletGate ended with the Oilers compensating the Kings with "a small amount of cash" to cover Fraser's medical costs, prior to a hearing with Gary Bettman.
With the Kings headed to Edmonton on Sunday, Mark Spector of The Team 1260 had Lombardi on his program today and captured a rare moment: A public, on the record apology from the Los Angeles general manager to Oilers GM Steve Tambellini and the NHL for making the whole affair so public.
SPECTOR: Whatever became of the whole Colin Fraser injury dispute? Have you and the Oilers mended fences?
LOMBARDI: "Yeah, I think we were able to work that out. That's something that I have to apologize for. I was certainly frustrated. Having to lose a player like Ryan Smyth and then getting into a bind in trying to replace him and then, you know, there was a little gray area as far as what we got back.
"The bottom line is that I never should have said what I said publicly. It was the wrong thing to do. I apologize to Edmonton as well as to the National Hockey League [because] that wasn't the way to handle it. Once we sat down we were able to come to some resolution. The bottom line is that I was wrong in the way that I handled that. And we move on."
What, no barn fight?
Fraser has played 28 games and is a minus-2 with two points, typically playing under 10 minutes a night. Ryan Smyth has played 42 games for the Oil, scoring 15 goals and 17 assists. He still, to this day, has a party in the back.