Oilers’ Derek Ryan More Valuable on Team Than as Trade Chip

The Edmonton Oilers were initially open to trading any one of three of their current forwards on their roster by the trade deadline in order to free up cap space or broker a deal. Those three players included Jesse Puljujarvi, Warren Foegele, and Derek Ryan.

This news came about around two weeks ago as Frank Seravalli spoke in more detail about the situation at the time saying, “The Oilers were out there last week gauging. Specifically, their options to waive were Derek Ryan, Foegele, or Jesse Puljujarvi. None of those three names are really going to shock you. They were gauging the trade market on Foegele and Puljujarvi specifically.” This was before Kailer Yamamoto landed on the long-term injured reserve and the Oilers were able to push this decision further down the line (from ‘Evander Kane coming back so who is getting moved out? Puljujarvi, Ryan or Foegele?,’ Edmonton Journal, Jan. 16, 2023).

Derek Ryan Edmonton Oilers
Derek Ryan, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A decision is still to come on which forward(s) is headed out of Edmonton, but everything to do with Ryan indicates that the Oilers should not only keep him, but extend him. This is exactly what they are planning to do as reported on by Daniel Nugent-Bowman who covers the Oilers for The Athletic (from “Bo Horvat? Jonathan Toews? What I’m hearing on Oilers’ trade deadline plans”, The Athletic, Jan. 21, 2023). Ryan appears to be out of the plans to trade or demote to the American Hockey League (AHL) as he has been a great Swiss Army knife for the team this season. He is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after the season, which is why there was initial chatter about potentially moving him to free up cap space. He is also 36 years old, but has been used throughout the lineup in all situations and is a great veteran presence at a cheap cost.

Why Ryan is Worth Much More on the Oilers Than as a Trade Chip

There is no extension in place, nor is there any trade for Ryan. As far as trade chips for the Oilers go, since Ryan is a UFA at the end of the season and is older than the average player, his value isn’t very high. There is no team control or certainty that he will re-sign with a non-contender if he is dealt there and he’s not exactly cheap enough for a contender to add him at zero percent retained.

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So, in terms of getting any assets back or freeing up cap space, Ryan sits behind Puljujarvi and Foegele in that regard. If the Oilers are able to move one to two of Puljujarvi or Foegele, there is absolutely no need to also move Ryan. The Oilers are more likely to make more impactful additions at the trade deadline, so moving out Ryan’s $1.25 million cap hit compared to Puljujarvi’s $3 million or Foegele’s $2.75 million doesn’t do much.

Derek Ryan Edmonton Oilers
Derek Ryan, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

What Ryan brings to the lineup has increasingly grown in recent weeks. He has played on all four lines this season, primarily as a winger, but is more than capable at centre where he has never finished a season below 50 percent in the draws. The Oilers are great with puck possession, so Ryan’s ability to win draws is crucial. Despite playing the wing, the Oilers have utilized his faceoff ability like they do throughout their lineup.

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Over the past few games, the Oilers have utilized Ryan in the top six, playing the wing beside Connor McDavid on the top line or Leon Draisaitl on the second line. Ryan’s poise and hockey IQ allows him to fill in higher in the lineup when needed. The veteran also has good numbers while killing penalties. The Oilers would have a tougher time replacing what they would lose if Ryan were to leave than if Puljujarvi or Foegele were to be traded. The Oilers only have plans for Ryan past this season and should be able to sign him for even cheaper this time. He must stick around.

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