Signing Bobby Ryan: No Easy Task for Senators

It’s nervous times in the nation’s capital.

At the start of the month, after a long summer of guessing games, Bobby Ryan gave Senators fans some insight on what the plan was for contract talks.

“I was looking forward to getting back here to getting more involved than I have been (in negotiations), but as far as I knew, every discussion has been amicable and there haven’t been any breakdowns or anything like that. Everybody is confident that we’re going to start going with (serious negotiations) when everyone is in town.” Bobby Ryan. Ottawa Citizen. Published: Sept. 3, 2014.

Fast forward a week later, and negotiation plans have been pushed further away.

“We’re not going to talk to his people until the year gets underway. I think he wants to see how important of a role he can play in Ottawa and (if) he tells me he likes it and we’ll do a deal. But, he wants to be… he wants to kind of figure out where he’s going as far as his career and his opportunity in Ottawa.” Bryan Murray. CTV News. Published: Sept. 10, 2014.

Well, that doesn’t sound too reassuring.

Will He Stay or Will He Go?

(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

With Ryan trying to “figure out where he’s going,” it makes one wonder if he even wants to stay in Ottawa. Last year was no picnic. While the Senators were more inconsistent than any other team in the league, Ryan dealt with an injury for what seemed to be most of the year.

Maybe last season was such a nightmare that he wants to move on and have a fresh start. Or maybe Ryan is worried about the state of the team moving forward. Pre-season predictions have not been kind to Ottawa. Bodog has the Senators’ over/under on total points at 78.5 only in front of the Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers. Sportsnet also didn’t take it easy on Ottawa, ranking them 26th in the league in their 2014-15 NHL Preview.

So, maybe the Senators aren’t poised for a return to the playoffs this year. How much could that really influence Ryan’s decision to sign? Do star players like himself really care that much about winning that they would abandon their team?

To answer those questions, you could simply list off the names of players who have left Ottawa for a better chance to win in the past two years. Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky… I think there’s a trend here.

Overall, Bobby Ryan needs to figure out how much he’s willing to buy into the Senators’ plans for the future. Though the current players and management have voiced their positive opinions on the possibility of playoffs, everyone knows Ottawa is going through some growing pains and it might take a couple years for them to get back to form. The 27-year old New Jersey native is a long way away from retiring, but only he knows how long he wants to wait for a chance to win a Cup.

At What Cost?

The Senators are going to have a lot of things working against them while they attempt to sign Ryan to an extension.

First, there’s always the temptation of free agency. Being one of, if not the best player heading into unrestricted free agency, Ryan may be persuaded by the possibility of a big offer from a Cup contender come July 1st. If he’s not happy with what the Senators are putting on the table, it’s not like he’s got nowhere to go.

Then there’s the Melnyk factor.

Without Eugene Melnyk increasing the teams budget, the Senators will have an even harder time trying to sign Ryan. Marc Methot is already asking for a $5.5 million long-term extension and with him being Erik Karlsson’s D partner as well as a hometown guy, the odds are in his favour.

So, what is a potential 30-goal scorer like Bobby Ryan worth in this league? The average cap hit of players who scored 30-35 goals last season was $5.29 million, but Ryan could be asking for upwards of 7 million. If that’s so, then it’s going to be even harder to sign him.

Decision Time

The Ottawa Senators need to figure out how much Bobby Ryan really is worth to this club. It just might take a couple of months of watching Ryan play to assess what they’re willing to offer him.

Being injured for most of the 2013-14 campaign, Ryan wasn’t really able to show this team what he’s truly capable of. Now, with somewhat of a clean slate and a new opportunity to showcase his value, Ryan can prove his worth with his play on the ice.

Bobby Ryan and Bryan Murray have all year to negotiate and come to an agreement. But until a deal is done, it’ll be nervous times in Ottawa.

(Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)
(Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)