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Ryan Smyth chokes back tears as he departs Edmonton on Wednesday. ((John Ulan/Canadian Press))

An emotional Ryan Smyth bid farewell to the city of Edmonton and Oilers fans on Wednesday.

A day after being traded by general manager Kevin Lowe to the New York Islanders, the veteran winger fought back tears as he read a statement and answered questions at a news conference at the Edmonton International Airport.

Smyth began his remarks by acknowledging his teammates and Oilers management before thanking his family.

"Without them, it would be hard to get through times like these," he said. "I really appreciate their support."

Smyth, who admitted he found out he was traded from watching trade deadline coverage on television, said he bears no grudge against Lowe for dealing him to New York.

"I never thought it would come to this day," said the former all-star. "I've got to turn the page and start a new chapter in life. The New York Islanders have given me that opportunity and I thank them for this.

"I'm going to go there and do my best and make the playoffs and win that [Stanley] Cup, so I can bring it down here to Edmonton — because that's where my heart is."

They were the first public comments he made since being dealt to the Islanders for prospects Robert Nilsson and Ryan O'Marra and a first-round draft pick in Tuesday's most shocking deadline day deal.

He did not immediately speak about the trade because he didn't want to overshadow the Oilers' jersey retirement ceremony for former captain Mark Messier Tuesday evening.

Smyth, 31, had spent all 11 of his NHL seasons with Edmonton, becoming a fan favourite and the team's emotional centre with his rugged play while serving as an alternate captain.

The native of Banff, Alta., is widely considered one of the NHL's hardest-working forwards and he offers the Islanders a unique blend of grit, leadership and scoring prowess.

In 53 games this season, Smyth had 31 goals and 53 points, both team highs, but the Oilers failed to sign him to a contract extension.

Smyth's agent Don Meehan said that he and the Oilers talked right up until Tuesday's 3 p.m. trade deadline but couldn't get a deal done. Smyth, whose salary is $3.5 million US, reportedly was seeking a multi-year extension worth $5.5 million annually.

He is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and will be able to sign with any team next season, including Edmonton.