Bobby Ryan’s contract is perhaps one of the most problematic in the NHL right now. That’s no secret. The 31-year-old forward is locked in for 7.25-million AAV for the next four years, and in the past few seasons he’s looked like a shell of his old self – the lone bright spot in recent memory being his strong run in the 2017 playoffs when the Sens made that improbable run.
He was on a mission for those few months, but otherwise his time in Ottawa has been nearly a downright disaster. His goal scoring has dried up, he seems to break his hand on a weekly basis, and he’s become one of the major scapegoats for the fans in this city. All of that has led to the team reportedly willing to shoot themselves in the foot in an Erik Karlsson deal by strapping Ryan to the trade and getting out from under his contract. It’s that bad.
But – and this is going to seem like an extreme take – I don’t think Bobby Ryan is all that terrible. I think the Sens are, and I think his time there has been a wreck, no doubt. He has nothing to give that franchise. But he might not be completely finished yet, and for that reason, any team making a deal to get him and Karlsson might not be in such a tough bind right off the hop. There could be some value there. Again, he’s had two very rough seasons under Boucher, but he’s only just turned 31, and we’ve seen other players (ahem, Eric Staal) written off, only to bounce back. I think sometimes we’re too quick to put the knife in.
That’s a lot of fancy colours to look at, but essentially what we’re seeing here is that, despite the nagging injuries and a tough slog on production, Ryan can still pull the puck offensively. His possession numbers aren’t good, but Ottawa has been a trainwreck in that regard the last couple years anyway. I think in a more freewheeling, offense-friendly system, he could get back to some of his scoring ways. I know of a team like that just four hours down the 401.
The assumption to this point has been that any team that brings in the pair of Karlsson and Ryan will likely do it with intention of buying Ryan out. For argument’s sake, let’s say that team is the Leafs. Buying out Ryan now would keep a cap hit on the books for eight (!) years, the first four at a 3.58AAV and the latter four at 1.83AAV. That’s a difficult one to stomach for any team.
But since buyouts are simply 2/3 the salary stretched over double the term (while considering signing bonuses), each year you wait to do it obviously saves you one down the line. Push Ryan’s buyout to next season and he’s got six years left (a three-and-three situation similar to the numbers we have above), and so on. If there’s any talent and drive left to squeeze out of this player, you want to do it.
We’re looking at this from a Leafs perspective, but the Vegas Knights apparently had a deal nearly completed to do exactly what we’re proposing: Bring on Karlsson and Ryan together. For Toronto to make a splash that big, they’d likely need to involve a third team. The question about Ryan becomes, simply, can you salvage a year or two out of him and get some value back before buying him out. I think for the 2018-19 season it’s a no-brainer for a team with the room to do it.
Dubas: "We’re confident right now with our cap situation that we can do really whatever we want to do at this point. Nothing is going to stop us and hold us back. That’s how we will proceed here through the entire summer." #Leafs
— Terry Koshan (@koshtorontosun) June 23, 2018
Making an earth-shattering deal to get a player like Karlsson with Ryan in tow would certainly qualify as not holding back. From there I think that given Toronto’s heavy focus on sports science and recovery, a head coach whose calling card is being a motivator, and the fact the team is trending up in a big way, it all could come together to get Ryan back on the scoresheet the way he used to. He’d be one of a few major hurdles in putting together a deal to bring in a true star on defence, but I’m not totally sold that he himself is finished just yet. At least not for another year.
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