Senators Rebuild Can’t Happen With Ryan

The Erik Karlsson drama in Ottawa is over. The Senators have traded Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks. Say what you want about the return Ottawa received for the former captain, but it is apparent the Senators are embracing the idea of a rebuild. The team appears ready to begin anew, but there are obstacles in the way of a proper rebuild, and one of them is Bobby Ryan.

The 31-year-old winger is entering his sixth season with the Senators and his fourth year making $7.25 million despite not having a 60-point season during his time with the Senators.

Bobby Ryan
While still providing offense, Bobby Ryan is not worth the value of his contract.(Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

While he may contribute the occasional 50-point campaign, Ryan is making far too much money. His contract is taking up a good chunk of Ottawa’s cap space while the team is desperate to rebuild. Keeping him on the books for the rest of his contract will only weigh the team down while they are trying to lock up the future of the organization.

How Did Bobby Ryan Earn His Contract?

In July of 2013, the Anaheim Ducks traded Ryan to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Jakob Silfverberg, Stephan Noesen, and the Senators’ first-round pick in 2014 (10th overall, Nick Ritchie). At the time, Ryan still had two years left of his five-year, $25.5 million contract he signed with the Ducks ($5.1 million AAV). In those two seasons, Ryan put up 102 points in 148 games (0.68 points per game), had a shooting percentage of 10.0%, registered 214 hits, and averaged 17:11 of ice time per night. He also scored two goals in the Senators’ six-game series against the Montréal Canadiens in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ryan signed his seven-year extension with the Senators prior to the 2014-15 season, not beginning until the next year. He signed a seven-year, $50.75 million contract that included an NMC and a modified NTC (Ryan submits a 10-team no-trade list) in each year of the contract. Since signing that contract, Ryan’s numbers have fallen. In three years, Ryan has played 205 games but only contributed 114 points (0.55 points per game). He’s had seven hand injuries since 2014 and hasn’t played an 82-game season since 2011-12.

But why the Senators thought it was a good idea to give Ryan such a large contract when his numbers are closer to James Neal ($5.75 million, 495 points over 703 games) is not important. What is important is how the Senators can get Ryan’s contract off the books.

The Trade Scenarios

Ryan’s cap hit compared to his production and history of injuries makes it incredibly difficult to trade him. A magical scenario would be a team like the Carolina Hurricanes, who have over $18.5 million in cap space and lack depth offensively, especially now that Victor Rask is out indefinitely with after having surgery on his hand. They may be willing to pick up his contract for a 40-50 point scorer. Only six players had 40 or more points for the Hurricanes last year, and only three had 50-plus points.

The Senators would likely have to sweeten the pot, though, with a draft pick or prospect for Carolina to take the deal, and that is not something Ottawa can afford to do right now. They need all of the picks and prospects they can get, especially since they are without their first-round pick next year.

Phil Kessel Penguins
The Senators can use the Phil Kessel trade from a few years ago as a model of how to complete a retained salary. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Another option could be a trade where the Senators retain salary. Using Phil Kessel as an example, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins prior to the 2015-16 season. The Maple Leafs agreed to retain $1.2 million (15%) of Kessel’s $8 million cap hit per year. Let’s say the Senators try something similar and retain 15% of Ryan’s salary, that would be $1.087 million per year. If it is 20%, it would be $1.45 million. Ottawa would only need to retain salary for four more years, unlike the Maple Leafs who had to retain salary for six years. The last trade scenario would include packaging Ryan in a deal that includes a large number of players, similar to the Dion Phaneuf trade the Maple Leafs made with the Senators.

The Buyout Scenario

Lastly, we have the situation where, with no takers for Ryan, the Senators could buy out the rest of his deal. Alexandre Burrows’ $2 million buyout penalty is entering its final year, meaning the Senators could buy out Ryan at the beginning of next summer.

Alexandre Burrows
With Alexandre Burrows’ buy out penalty entering its final season, the Senators could buy out Bobby Ryan next summer. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

For a Ryan buyout, the Senators would pay $1.83 million over the next six years. It may be two more years of paying money for Ryan’s deal, but it is a better idea than paying $7.25 million per season for the next four years.

Senators Must Say Goodbye to Bobby Ryan

The Senators need to find a way to get Bobby Ryan’s contract out of Ottawa. If the team is set on this rebuild, they need to trade or buy out Ryan. Freeing up over $7 million per year for the next four years is a huge opportunity to have the space to sign the players of the future and help lay the foundation for the rebuild this team desperately needs.