The Anaheim Ducks and forward Bobby Ryan are at a contract negotiation standstill right now. In a rare twist, it doesn’t appear that it’s a straight-up money problem. (I mean, sure, in the grand scheme of things it is … but work with me, here.)
Instead, the biggest sticking point seems to be the length of the contract. Ryan’s camp would prefer a three-year deal so the American forward could maximize his unrestricted free agent years. Conversely, the Ducks can’t afford a three-year pact because their other two young power forwards (Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf) will be unrestricted free agents as well. Instead, the cash-strapped franchise would rather go with a five-year deal to soak up two of Ryan’s UFA years.
My blog buddy Earl Sleek of Battle of California brings up an interesting alternative: what if the Ducks signed Ryan to one of those fancy lifetime contracts? Sleek admittedly says that the idea could be crazy, but hear him out first.
I don’t know that the focus here should be on actual dollars or length — those are quite negotiable, but I picked fifteen years, which carries B-Ry to age 37, and an averaged cap hit of $5.2 M. The individual years go something like this (in millions):
4, 4, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7, 9, 9, 7, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1
What does this accomplish? First off, for the Ducks, they know that they will have four years up front where the actual salary will be lower than the cap hit — this is quite attractive to lower or middle spending teams like Anaheim, where cap hits are largely irrelevant but real dollars reign supreme. Then begins a stretch of seven years where his cash cost will exceed his cap hit — this is much more attractive to rich cap-ceiling spending teams who are much more focused on average salary. I think this means that unless B-Ry proves himself to be incredibly valuable (or valueless), he likely gets traded after four years or so to a “Rich Dad” team. The structure of the deal enables the middle of B-Ry’s contract to look attractive to big spenders in the marketplace, and rather than the Ducks losing Ryan for next-to-nothing in the UFA process, they may be able to pry some assets for Ryan’s somewhat-cheap-cap-hit contract.
For Bobby Ryan, I think there’s some charm to this deal also — he gets some future security, and largely gets what he may be looking for in unrestricted free agency: a nice pay raise and a ticket out of Anaheim. He’ll likely get to play his early 30s on a cap-spending team who likes his lowered cap hit — theoretically it should enhance his chances of winning the cup. And if his game falters in his late 30s, he can retire without missing out on too much of the overall contract value.
Wow, the last four years go down by a million each? That’s so … conservative compared to that slap-you-in-the-face Kovalchuk contract.
All joking aside, it’s an intriguing concept. In fact, the biggest snag might be that Ryan may very well want to play through all the years of that hypothetical deal. It seems to me that the vast majority of the guys who sign those deals know full well that they’ll never honor the lowest dollar years of their enormous contracts.
Chances are, the sides will find a compromise that doesn’t involve such a risky investment. (Maybe go for four years so each side gives up a little to make it work?) My guess is that Ryan will remain a Duck, although a sneaky team might want to send a three-year offer sheet to make Anaheim uncomfortable. Just saying.