Bobby Ryan was the first player bought out this season when the Ottawa Senators punted on the remaining two years of his $7.5M salary (AAV $7.25M) on Steptember 25. Since then, Ryan has expressed interest in the Philadelphia Flyers and there’s been word the San Jose Sharks have kicked the tires too.
That question, and the point made in my colleague Sheng Peng’s article linked above, really deals more with who surrounds Ryan. Bobby Ryan is a former 30-goal scorer who is the 2019-20 Bill Masterton Memorial Award winner thanks to his ability to rebound from substance abuse and return to the game he loved. Ryan is also 33 and could be on the downside of his career. But I believe he’s worth a flyer at the right (low) price for Vegas on a two-year deal and here’s why.
I’ve been around professional hockey (and assorted other sports) for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve seen players go through public and not-so-public struggles with addiction and other issues. Not everyone who gets clean stays clean, and having a strong support system around the person is critical to success. That said, those who did clean themselves up for good rebounded really well. I’ve seen guys look years younger after overcoming their struggles. A lot of the naysayers who look at Ryan say he’s an old 33, look at his recent lack of production, etc. But you can’t put a quantity on how much addiction can age you or wear you down physically and mentally. When those factors are removed, it’s as if a weight has been lifted. Some guys do look and feel younger and more energetic.
This is where I make a phone call to Ryan and talk to him about what he’s been through and how he feels on the other side of it. Does he feel better physically? Mentally? What are the differences? In this case, you could be getting a reinvigorated player with something to prove. That’s worth the phone call.
Ryan is a four-time 30-goal scorer, and with the right setup man could net you somewhere in the 20-plus range. Starting him in a third line role makes sense given the forward depth for the Golden Knights. The question would be who on the right side stays there and who might move to the left side. Ryan is a right-hand shot on the right wing, but the Golden Knights also have Mark Stone, Reilly Smith, Alex Tuch and Ryan Reaves on the right side as well. Tuch’s production was disappointing this year and could be ripe for a rebound, or the start of a larger downward trend. Smith’s deal has two more years. Ryan is not a long-term solution but rather that extra piece that gives you more to get over the hump in the next year or two.
One thing Vegas was sorely lacking in the playoffs was consistent scoring, especially among its biggest names. In the playoffs for his career, Ryan has 18 goals and 32 points in 51 games, averaging .63 points per game. That scoring average would have placed him fourth on the team behind Shea Theodore, Stone and Smith. Having a veteran like Ryan with playoff experience would also help keep the team focused in tough situations.
While Ryan was due $5.5M in salary and $2M in bonus money from Ottawa the next two years, it’s possible that because the market is so tight there’s a value to be had here. If Vegas, which will be desperate to find some cap space where possible, is able to move one or more heavy contracts for next season and beyond, it would easily free up a reasonable deal to add the potential of 20 goals and/or 50 points. If you can score that type of player for “cheap” it’s worth doing. Fair or not, Ryan’s rehabilitation will turn some teams off from signing him. That’s why talking to the player and his support system are important. He will need every possible tool to succeed, but the potential rewards are great.
If Bobby Ryan chooses to take a run at a Cup over trying to max out his payday, I think he improves the Golden Knights – especially in the playoffs. If two years can be had for a combined $4-5M, I think that’s worth it. Anything much higher than that and I am likely to look elsewhere.