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January 13, 2017 | 5:44pm ET
Ryan on Thin Ice?
By Josh Brewster

Brewster takes a look at two Ryans; one a star forward who comes with a gourmet price tag, and the other, a late bloomer, who tops the list of bargain-basement gems

ANAHEIM, CA -- When Ottawa Senators Coach Guy Boucher made Bobby Ryan a healthy scratch last week, a curious situation emerged.

Speculation has it that Ryan may have invoked the healthy scratch by missing a curfew on New Year's Eve. Oddly, while Boucher did not scratch Ryan the following day (a 2-1 loss at Washington), he did make him ride the pine during that game’s final nine minutes while trailing the Caps by one goal.

The scratch came six days later, when the Senators returned home to face the same Capitals, who again won by one goal (1-0).

Ryan, of course, is the highest-paid forward in Ottawa ($7M cap hit / $7.25M salary) and his low season average TOI of 15:22 raises eyebrows, as does his meager output of eight goals and seven assists in 34 games. Two of his goals come on the power play. None of his eight are game-winners. Ryan’s total of 56 shots translates to 1.64 per game, substantially lower than his career average of 2.69.

Drafted second to Sidney Crosby in 2005, Ryan scored 30 or more goals in four consecutive seasons in Anaheim. While those clubs were stronger than any of his Senators teams, the fact that Boucher isn’t putting the team’s big-money, big-talent forward in a position to succeed makes us wonder whether where there’s smoke, there’s fire?

Senators associate coach Marc Crawford chimed in this week, suggesting that Ryan was not meeting the team’s “standards.”

“In terms of . . . the incidental things, discipline and that sort of thing, there’s standards there, and they have to be adhered to,” noted Crawford.

Boucher pointed out that five-on-five is the most important thing, and that Ryan’s compete level must improve.

“He’s at his best when he’s moving his feet,” said Boucher. “He’s got terrific vision…but when the speed of his feet doesn’t match the speed of his mind he’s not at his best. That’s what he needs to be to be consistent.”

Fair enough. The reality is that coaches have little leverage other than ice time. Of further impact was Boucher’s shift of Ryan to the second powerplay unit.

Ryan’s even strength linemates of late have been Kyle Turris and Ryan Dzingel.

Somehow, though, with the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft looming and Ryan operating under a dark cloud, the idea that he can’t be moved because of his hefty price tag does not hold water.

As for the expansion draft, he required to be protected, but while some have suggested that Vegas wouldn’t be interested in a pricey Ryan, anyway, don’t count it out if he’s still a Senator through the end of the season. Golden Knight GM George McPhee may very well view Ryan as an exciting addition who could use a change of scenery (and is well-acquainted with Pacific division foes).

Ryan was dinged up earlier this year, but he’s a healthy 29-year-old whose deal runs for four more seasons (2020-21). He’ll be 34 at the end of his deal, and if he can play 20 minutes a night in Vegas, baby, a return to an annual 30 goals is within his reach. With an ever-ascending salary cap in place, his price won’t look that steep if he can get back on track in coming seasons.

With regard to trades at the March deadline, Ryan’s no-movement clause prohibits him from being assigned to the AHL and also comes with a 10-team no-trade list.

The Super Value Menu

The average NHL salary is well over $2.5M and going up all the time. The Fourth Period looks at some notable contributors who make far less than average money.

Setting aside young players who are on entry-level deals, here’s a small sample of the most productive players who come cheap by NHL standards, guys who make GM’s look real smart.

Derek Ryan, C, Carolina Hurricanes ($600K Salary)
(28GP: 8-9-17 / 55.9% faceoffs / 21.6 shot %)

While a 29-year-old Bobby Ryan makes many millions and fights for his ice time, a 30-year-old late bloomer also named Ryan is helping the Hurricanes surge.

Derek Ryan, a native of Spokane, Washington, played three seasons in Austria and one in Sweden after graduating from the University of Alberta.

Undrafted, Ryan signed as a free agent by the Hurricanes in June of 2015, appearing in 70 games for the AHL affiliate in Charlotte and six with the big club, where he scored two goals, offering a glimpse of his big-league potential. This season, Ryan spent nine games in the minors before his call-up. If the ‘Canes continue to improve—and they may be a buyer at the deadline—Ryan will be a significant find by GM Ron Francis’ group. A great story of perseverance. UFA: July 2017.

Chad Johnson, G, Calgary Flames ($1.7M Salary)
(25GP: 15-9-1 / 2.26GAA / .923SV%)

The number one netminding job in Calgary was supposed to be held by former Blue Brian Elliott. So much for supposed-to-be’s.

After bouncing from the Rangers, Coyotes, Bruins and Islanders, Johnson was solid for a struggling Buffalo club last season, winning 22 games in 45 appearances, while sporting a very solid 2.36GAA. The Sabres let him slip away, and Johnson signed with his hometown Flames, earning approximately one million dollars less than hyped free agent Elliott.

No matter, Johnson snared the starting job in Calgary by a mile. Elliott’s numbers (GAA: 2.95/.889SV%) pale in comparison to Johnson’s (see above). UFA: July 2017.

P-A Parenteau, RW, New Jersey Devils ($1.25M Salary)
(41 GP: 12-7-19)

Sees top-line duty with Taylor Hall and Adam Henrique. Claimed (smartly) off waivers from Islanders, who, as it turns out, could have really used his services.

Parenteau, now on his seventh club, was happy on the Island. When New Jersey gave him an opportunity to stay in the NHL without changing his address, he showed his appreciation with 12 goals at the halfway mark. He’s got one 14-game goalless streak on the books, but aside from that has consistently put the biscuit in the basket every three or four games. UFA: July 2017.

Also notable:

Michael Grabner, RW, New York Rangers ($1.65M Salary)
(41GP: 9-18-27 / +22 / Shot % 22.1% on 86 shots)

Signed in July 2016 as an unrestricted free agent by the New York Rangers to a two-year contract, now fourth in +/-. Signed at this price for another year, through 2017-18.

Nick Holden, D, New York Rangers ($1.65M Salary)
(42GP: 8-14-22 / +20 / 20:13TOI)

Not drafted. Plays with Dan Girardi on the second pairing, also the second power play unit. Solid number four d-man. Tied for sixth overall in +/-. Signed through 2017-18.

Tom Pyatt, LW, Ottawa Senators ($800K Salary)
(39GP: 6-5-10 / 15:40TOI)

LW 5’11”, turns 30 on February 14. Returned to NHL after two years with Geneva of the Swiss league. Second line opportunity at times, often with J-G Pageau and Mike Hoffman. UFA: July 2017.

Kyle Quincey, D, New Jersey Devils ($1.25M Salary)
(41GP: 2-7-9 / 18:07TOI / +4)

Stints with Detroit, LA, Colorado, Detroit (again) and now the Devils. Red Wings 4th round pick in 2003, 32-year-old. Dependable, can play third-to-sixth d-man role. Currently paired with Damon Severson, a decade his junior. UFA: July, 2017.

Antoine Vermette, C, Anaheim Ducks $1.75M
(44GP: 7-11-18)

Leads the NHL in faceoff percentage at 64%. Vermette and teammate Ryan Kesler (57.5%) power the NHL’s No.1 club in the faceoff dot. Signed at this price for another year, through 2017-18.

Josh Brewster is a Columnist for The Fourth Period and the host of Anaheim Ducks' postgame radio show since 2006. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.

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