Potential risks and rewards to the Ducks playing Bobby Ryan on the power play point

Thumbnail image for bobbyryan4.jpgIt doesn’t take an expert to figure out that it’s been a strange and busy summer for Bobby Ryan. First, he waited months to reach a five-year, $25.5 million deal to stay with the Anaheim Ducks. Then Joe passed along word that the winger might end up moving to the center position this season. The newest wrinkle is that the team is giving Ryan a shot on the power play point, according to Curtis Zupke of the OC Register.

The idea is to utilize Ryan’s ability to shoot and find teammates. It may not stick, but Coach Randy Carlyle clearly isn’t afraid to move some pieces around and might try it when the team opens a two-game preseason trip Friday at San Jose.

“I think when you have skilled players, and he’s one of our most skilled players, we think it would be foolish not to put him in as many offensive situations as possible,” Carlyle said.

“We’ll give it a whirl.”

Ryan played that point position briefly in the American Hockey League, so it’s not entirely new. Ideally he would have defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky man the right side and play as a “rover” with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne down low.

A power play with Getzlaf, Perry, Selanne, Visnovsky and Ryan? Now that’s the kind of results you’d like to see from a mad experiment.

That being said, I’ve often been critical of the practice of placing forwards on the point during the power play. While that might give you a boost in offensive firepower, it also subjects you to shorthanded goals. Zupke points out that the Ducks gave Ryan Getzlaf a try at the point but nixed that plan when the shorties became too much to handle.

Ryan has some experience playing defense, though, so this idea might hold a little more weight. The team will miss Scott Niedermayer’s “roving” presence on the power play, so you cannot blame them as they look to fill that void. If Ryan can be responsible enough in his own end, putting him at the point might just be crazy enough to work.

It could just as easily be a quickly forgotten training camp experiment too, though.

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    Ducks forward Bobby Ryan to get tried out at center during training camp

    bobbyryan4.jpgDucks forward Bobby Ryan’s summer was one that was a bit distracted by contract negotiations and discussion over whether or not he might be traded because of said negotiations. Now that he’s signed on for the next five years and ready to go, the Ducks and GM Bob Murray have a new challenge in store for him: They’re going to try him out at center during training camp.

    Murray said the rationale for the Ryan experiment at center is to have three strong lines. “Bobby played a few games at center at the end of last year, and Randy (Carlyle, Ducks coach) and I both liked what we saw,” Murray said Friday at Honda Center, while players were undergoing their annual pre-camp physicals and fitness tests. “It gives us more options.”

    Murray didn’t say which players would fill out the lines if Getzlaf, Ryan and Koivu center the top three lines, respectively, but he and Carlyle  obviously want to look at different combinations.

    “Like in baseball, you have to be strong up the middle,”  Murray said.

    Ryan is a 30-goal scorer with potential to do more as he gets older and moving him to a playmaking position at this point in his early career is a fascinating decision. Whether or not this means the Ducks may have concerns with their depth at center or if they’re worried about the workload on Saku Koivu is really unknown here but something you have to wonder about.

    The team does have enough at center to fill out four lines, but after that, the depth gets a bit scary. Getzlaf, Koivu, Todd Marchant and Kyle Chipchura make up the current center roster and adding Ryan into the mix relieves one of Marchant or Chipchura from their duties and likely to the wing.

    Then again, maybe this is just a comfort move for Teemu Selanne. After all, with Paul Kariya sitting out this season due to concussion issues, maybe Teemu just wanted to have anyone wearing #9 riding shotgun with him this season. If Bobby Ryan keeps getting called “Paul” I hope he’ll understand why.

    2010 NHL Free Agency: Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks agree to five-year, $25.5M deal

    Thumbnail image for bobbyryan3.jpgAbout a week ago, it appeared that the Anaheim Ducks and Bobby Ryan just about signed a new contract. Staying consistent with the Ilya Kovalchuk Groundhog Day spirit of this free agent summer, it took all this time for the actual deal to be finalized. Various sources including Ducks beat reporter Eric Stephens report that they reached a five year, $25.5 million deal today.

    That $5.1 million annual cap hit is $400K less per year than the $5.5 million annual value we originally anticipated. While that seems small in wacky hockey Monopoly dollars, it might be meaningful that Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf remain the club’s two highest paid forwards. Surely that matters in the grand scheme of crazy athlete egos. (Of course, Lubomir Visnovsky is the team’s highest paid player overall, so nothing really needs to make sense.)

    Ryan will lose a couple years of free agency but still lands a hefty deal all things considered. The Ducks avoid that scary bottleneck situation when Perry and Getzlaf’s contracts expire and will enjoy a few years of comfort as Jonas Hiller and their three young power forwards are wrapped up for the near future.

    Of course, the cash-strapped team could use a little help on their blue line if they want to be more than just a scrappy low seed in the Western Conference (if not a cellar dweller). Perhaps the team would want to roll the dice with expensive veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray? I would advise against that – after all, the Ducks need to spend their money wisely, not in a panic – but it’s an interesting thought, at least.

    Either way, it’s a nice deal, especially for the Ducks.

    Joe Nieuwendyk reflects on James Neal negotiations, Bobby Ryan and Marc Staal also in limbo

    nealiceshower.jpgMany of the biggest restricted free agent chips have fallen in the last month or so, with tough-to-compare cases such as Patric Hornqvist’s coming to satisfying conclusions in their negotiations. Still, there are a few scenarios that could linger beyond training camp, with New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and Dallas Stars power forward James Neal ranking among the top of the list.

    Neal’s situation was the topic of discussion between Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk and Craig Custance of the Sporting News today. Nieuwendyk said that he hopes to get a deal done before camp but acknowledges that it could take quite a while to reach a compromise, despite having more comparable contracts to work with than they did in the beginning of the free agent summer.

    Nieuwendyk said he has spoken recently with Neal’s agent, Pat Morris, and both sides continue to work on a deal.

    Morris works for Newport Sports Management, an agency that has represented many high-profile restricted free agents this summer. Ducks forward Bobby Ryan, another Newport client, is also without a deal.

    Newport’s Craig Oster negotiated a three-year, $9.25 million deal for Nashville’s restricted free agent Patric Hornqvist.

    Hornqvist put up comparable numbers to Neal’s last season, but Nieuwendyk warned against drawing any conclusions from that contract.

    “There are comparables and there are people who belong to the same agent,” he said. “But we do things that reflect where we are . … [Predators GM] David Poile did what he thought was best for his hockey club. We’ll do the same with ours, too.”

    Thumbnail image for bobbyryan3.jpgAs you might have noticed from that excerpt, Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan still hasn’t finalized a deal yet either despite seemingly being on the verge of doing so last week. This summer must have been a protracted and frustrating one for Ilya Kovalchuk and Nikolai Khabibulin’s agent Jay Grossman, but judging from these currently fruitless situations, he’s far from alone in the frustration.

    The Stars and Ducks are cash-strapped franchises whose real-life budgets probably fall well below the NHL’s salary cap ceiling. Ryan and Neal are important pieces of their teams’ future – both near and far – so hopefully both clubs need to get something done.

    I’m still not sure why another team doesn’t send an offer sheet Ryan or Neal’s way, though. Sure, the Stars and Ducks would probably match it, but why not make them sweat and possibly put them in a tough spot?

    I guess it’s not worth a little awkwardness at the next general managers shindig, then.

    Report: Bobby Ryan and Anaheim Ducks finally agree on a five year deal

    Thumbnail image for BobbyRyan3.jpgOne of the most important restricted free agent haggling sessions looks like it is reportedly over. Various outlets report that the Anaheim Ducks and Bobby Ryan are about to agree on a big new deal, while Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that the terms of the contract will be for five years at about $5.5 million per year (or five years, $27.5 million).

    While this isn’t yet official, the contract seems like it would be an interesting (and reasonable) compromise between two sides that were justifiably in disagreement.

    If you need your memory refreshed, the first stumbling block was that Bobby Ryan’s people wanted it to be three years long to allow him to cash in as much as possible on unrestricted free agency. The Ducks balked at three years because that contract would expire at the same time as the team’s other two power forwards, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. To say that would be a bottleneck is an understatement.

    My guess is that Ryan accepted a later arrival into unrestricted free agency for a slightly larger payday than his older partners in crime. This will make Ryan their highest paid forward and second highest paid player overall behind defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. The Ducks will probably send Brett Festerling or another depth player down to the minors and will be about $5 million under the cap if that $5.5 million annual cap hit is accurate.

    Again, this isn’t official but it seems very close to being confirmed. It’s a fair deal for both sides if those financial details are true, so the Ducks, their fans and Ryan’s representatives can all breathe easy.