What the Ducks will do without Bobby Ryan in Nashville

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When Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan was suspended for two games for stomping on the foot of Nashville defenseman Jonathon Blum, it put the Ducks in a tough spot for the rest of the series. After all, Anaheim came back strong in Game 2 to tie the series up and with their next two games coming on the road in Nashville, being without one of your top players puts you at a big disadvantage.

With Ryan being a part of perhaps the best top line in hockey with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, having a line like that to put out there for instant offense is a luxury for coach Randy Carlyle. Now with Ryan gone for the next two games, he’s got some lineup shuffling to do. So how will the Ducks get by without Bobby Ryan now for the next two games? Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register looked things over to see just who takes his place.

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle‘s willingness to take Ryan off that line on quite a few occasions this season might come in handy as he could turn to wingers such as Matt Beleskey or Brad Winchester, who’ve both played up with them. Carlyle may also turn to rookie Brandon McMillan, who was with Getzlaf and Perry for practice.

“We’ve had these situations before and you band together,” he said. ”What you do is you try to share the responsibility. No one guy can replace Bobby Ryan. Collectively, some people are going to have to step up and play to a higher level than they have probably all year. That’s really what we’re asking of our guys.”

Some fans assumed that perhaps 40 year-old Teemu Selanne could draw into that vacant spot on the top line, but breaking up his line with Jason Blake and Saku Koivu would make even less sense. Plus, Selanne plays right wing while Bobby Ryan was taking his spot on the left side of Getzlaf. Moving Selanne to the top line is the sort of move you make in a video game, not real life.

For guys like Beleskey, Winchester, or McMillan their role riding shotgun on that top line is a bit different than what you see from Ryan. They’ll get out there and provide a bit more physicality and aggression. After all, they don’t have the sort of scoring talent to be able to keep up with the likes of Getzlaf and Perry.

It’s a rough situation but one the Ducks have to make the best of and it provides for a rough lesson for Ryan. When he returns in Game 5 expect him to be a lot smarter about what he’s doing on the ice and to have that extra gear of motivation to play at a top level. Nashville might want to protect home ice by winning the next two because a rested Bobby Ryan will be a dangerous Bobby Ryan come Game 5.

After Stepan trade, Zibanejad negotiations become even more crucial

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For a good while, the center position in New York was largely carried by the one-two punch of Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan.

Now, the Derick & Derek show is no longer.

Stepan was shipped out during draft weekend in a blockbuster deal with Arizona. Brassard exited a year earlier in a move to Ottawa that brought Mika Zibanejad to the Blueshirts.

Zibanejad, 24, was acquired by GM Jeff Gorton in the hopes of one day becoming New York’s No. 1 center. He certainly showed he was capable this season — despite missing nearly 30 games with a broken fibula, he put together a fine offensive regular season and then surged in the playoffs, finishing with nine points in 12 games.

And now, a big negotiation sits on the horizon.

Zibanejad is a restricted free agent coming off a two-year, $5.25 million deal with a $2.625M cap hit. As we wrote earlier, Gorton is “open to anything” with regards to the extension, saying he’d be willing to go either short- or long-term.

One has to think Zibanejad has a ton of leverage. His acquisition price (Brassard) was significant, Stepan is now gone, and so too is depth center Oscar Lindberg, who was acquired by Vegas at the expansion draft. Right now, New York’s center depth consists of Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and maybe some spot duty from J.T. Miller.

Lias Andersson, taken seventh overall at Friday’s draft, said he wants to make the Rangers this year. But there’s no guarantee he’ll even play in North America this season, as Gorton could opt to send Andersson back to the Swedish League for further development.

The free agent market isn’t especially inspiring down the middle, unless someone thinks they can land Joe Thornton, and there’s no doubt Zibanejad’s seen the paydays scored by some other good, young, top-line centers. Winnipeg gave Mark Scheifele $49 million over eight years, while Calgary gave Sean Monahan $44M over seven.

Is Zibanejad at their level? If you surveyed folks around the league, the answer would be probably no. But he could be soon and, what’s more, the Rangers may be forced to pay him as if he already is.

Sabres bring back defenseman Fedun on two-year deal

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Taylor Fedun, the Sabres depth defenseman that was set to become a UFA on Saturday, has agreed to a two-year, two-way extension, Buffalo announced on Monday.

Fedun, 29, appeared in 27 games for the Sabres last year, splitting time between the NHL and the club’s AHL affiliate in Rochester. He was a very productive player for the Amerks, scoring 23 points in 29 games.

Moving forward, most expect Fedun to continue in the same role he served this year — a guy that can provide veteran stability at the minor league level, and fill spot duty at the NHL level when injuries strike.

Ottawa extends Pyatt — two years, $2.2 million

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Tom Pyatt, the veteran forward who enjoyed some success reuniting with Guy Boucher in Ottawa last season, has re-signed with the Sens on a two-year, $2.2 million deal, per TSN.

Pyatt was a steady contributor for the Sens, scoring nine goals and 23 points while appearing in all 82 contests. He averaged over 15 minutes per night and was a vital part of the club’s penalty kill, leading all forwards in blocked shots.

He also appeared in 14 playoff games, scoring twice.

Prior to playing in Ottawa, Pyatt had skated under Boucher in Tampa Bay. They spent parts of two years together with the Lightning, before heading off to Switzerland — Pyatt with Geneve Servette, Boucher with Bern SC.

Pyatt was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday, but clearly liked the fit in Ottawa. He’ll get a pay bump — up from the $800,000 he made last year — a bit more long-term security, and possibly a bigger role with the Sens moving forward.

Ottawa has already stated it will cut ties with veteran tough guy Chris Neil, and decisions are still looming on UFA forwards Viktor Stalberg, Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels.

 

 

Kassian gets three-year, $5.85 million commitment from Oilers

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Zack Kassian, after some terrific performances for the Oilers in the playoffs, has signed a three-year contract extension in Edmonton.

The deal is worth $5.85 million, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. That’s a cap hit just below $2 million.

Kassian, 26, seems to have salvaged his NHL career after missteps in Vancouver and Montreal. The big winger had seven goals and 17 games in 79 games for the Oilers during the regular season. But it was in the postseason where he really made an impact — especially in the first round against San Jose.

Twice Kassian scored game-winning goals against the Sharks. He was also a physical force:

Granted, Kassian was less noticeable in the second round, but the fact he received a three-year commitment from the Oilers speaks to the organization’s belief that he’s truly turned his life around.

Related: Kassian opens up about struggles with alcoholism