Sens’ Ryan faces career crossroads

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In good times and bad, it seems like odd moments just seem to follow Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan.

He’s made good on his status as the No. 2 pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, yet he’s also the guy who was selected after Sidney Crosby. Being overshadowed by big-name Canadian players probably became old hat for Ryan over the years, as his impressive feats (four 30+ seasons in Anaheim) were glossed over a bit because Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were even better.

Of course, then the awkwardness shifted to being dismissed compared to other Americans, as he was a controversial snub for the 2014 Olympic team.

Big payday coming?

With all of this in mind, it’s easy to forget that Ryan ranks as one of the best young power forwards in the league. He also carries the rare strength of being a fairly reliable peformer among more brutish finesse players who often see their production come and go.

This brings up a tough question heading into the 2014-15 season in which his current contract expires: how much, exactly, is he worth?

At 27, Ryan is currently scheduled for unrestricted free agency. It’s difficult to imagine him hitting the free market, as even the best available UFA talent usually consists of players who’ve already reached their 30’s.

Seriously, take a second to study the players who hit free agency during the prime years who actually made a difference and didn’t defect to the KHL. All things considered, Ryan could command quite a ransom if he makes it that far, which is probably a strong argument for why he should think long and hard about whether or not he wants to stick around in Ottawa.

Should he stay or go?

One big argument “for” is that he’d remain one of the team’s biggest stars. There’s something to be said for being the “big man on campus,” which is a title Ryan would likely share with Erik Karlsson and maybe another player or two.

Unless they can convince him to maintain his relative bargain $5.1 million cap hit, the Senators might benefit from seeing what he can do in 2014-15, too. Ryan remains a potent scorer (23 goals in 70 games last season), even with all the turbulence of last season, from being snubbed to being traded. Sure, an elite season could prove costly, but if his reps want a big contract anyway … why not make sure this is the right fit?

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Whatever way this shakes out, it should be an interesting – maybe even intense – situation to watch.