Let’s Talk Bobby Ryan to the Pittsburgh Penguins
July 27, 2012 Leave a comment
(UPDATE: 01/15/13 – The NHL is about to begin a 48-game season. It seems that the availability of Bobby Ryan will be closely-tied to the Anaheim Ducks’ ability to re-sign pending Free Agents Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, as well as how well the Ducks perform leading up to the 2013 Trade Deadline. It appears the Penguins are going to attempt to fill the hole in their Top-Six Forwards with either Eric Tangradi or Beau Bennett. Bobby remains in-play and the Penguins remain a destination, but nothing should happen until 25-30 games into the shortened season.)
As you know, Rick Nash has been dealt to the New York Rangers for a return package of debatable value. Even more recently, UFA winger Alexander Semin has signed a one-year pact with the Carolina Hurricanes for $7 Million, further depleting the field of obvious Top-6 help at the forward position. While Penguins’ coaches and personnel are content to go to Training Camp with the team “As-Is”, citing the possibilities of Eric Tangradi, Tyler Kennedy, or even 2009 1st-Round Pick Beau Bennett as potential scoring-line wingers, it seems evident that the Penguins would prefer to fortify their Top-6 with an established scoring winger.
The removal of Nash and Semin from the market has left two obvious targets for the Pittsburgh Penguins and their shrewd General Manager, “Showtime” Ray Shero:
Unrestricted Free Agent Shane Doan, who is in a holding pattern while the Phoenix Coyotes sort out their ownership mess, and Anaheim Ducks’ goal-scoring winger Bobby Ryan, who for various reasons is frequently mentioned in trade rumors.
(UPDATE: Shane Doan re-signed in Phoenix on a five-year deal. It remains to be seen if the Coyotes will play all of contract in Arizona, but Doan is effectively off-the-market.)
I much prefer Bobby Ryan to Nash, which may seem surprising if you read my article “Let’s Talk Rick Nash to the Pittsburgh Penguins.” I like Nash and I saw his game as a natural compliment to Sid’s, given their time together on the Canadian National Team as well as the physical element a player of Nash’s size can bring. I wrote the Nash article because A) I presumed Nash would have a lower asking price than Bobby Ryan, and B) the Penguins had just lost out on the Zach Parise Sweepstakes, and I see Rick Nash as a more direct comparable to Zach.
Having said that, I have been noting since the draft that the Penguins are hell-bent on using their newly-discovered Cap Space to invest in United States Olympians. While I had hoped and suspected that the team would target Zach Parise and Ryan Suter (which they did to varying degrees), I also noted that “fallback options” included the likes of Coyotes Defenseman Keith Yandle and the title topic of today’s article.
Yandle would take an absolute haul to pry away from Phoenix. I bet Showtime and Coyotes GM Don Maloney have already had that discussion, which I strongly suspect included the names “Simon Despres” and “Joe Morrow” coming out of Maloney’s mouth. Lord knows Keith Yandle would look good in a Penguins’ sweater, but given his ability, team-friendly contract, and the important role he fills for the Coyotes, the asking price would seem to be a non-starter. Beyond that, I imagine the Coyotes would be wanting salary-controlled forwards or forward prospects, given the depth of young talent Phoenix has along the blue line.
(UPDATE: It seems Showtime may have kicked the tires on Keith Yandle, but pending the outcome of the CBA, Yandle has become a pretty-unlikely candidate for Pittsburgh. The Penguins have depth on Defense in spades, but have a dearth of desirable Forward prospects, which Phoenix would want. Beyond that, it appears as though Showtime is interested in “Bridging the Gap” until his crop of elite Defensive Prospects are ready to play in Pittsburgh rather than acquiring a somewhat-expensive mid-career player such as Yandle.)
Which brings us back to the pride of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, #9 Bobby Ryan:
As you know, I adore America and have a great affinity for U.S. Olympians. If it were a choice between a Canadian player like Rick Nash and versus an American comparable such Bobby Ryan, for both Showtime and me it would be no choice at all. I have no doubt Showtime, a manager on the 2010 USA team and a proud member of USA Hockey, would love to bring Bobby aboard.
The Good News about the Nash and Semin deals are that two potential dance-partners for Bobby (if he is in fact available) are off the board; the Bad News is that the Nash trade effectively set the market for Bobby, as Bobby is a younger, somewhat comparable player to Nash with a more team-friendly contract.
Bobby will not be in the discount bin like Rick Nash was. While Anaheim would possibly like to move him, they will expect a high-quality centerman or a package of nice defense prospects in return. Luckily for the Pens, they are able to offer one of the two entrees the Ducks would seem to be interested in.
Assuming for a moment that Anaheim is ready to trade Bobby, let’s look at the remaining teams who would be both interested in him and have the means to acquire him:
(UPDATE: The Flyers have signed RFA Forward Jake Voracek to a four-year, $17 Million-Dollar deal. This probably further removes them from the Ryan Sweepstakes, as they have committed even more money to their already-deep forward corps. With Wayne Simmonds, Braden Schenn, and Sean Couturier all due contracts in the near future, it is hard to envision the team taking on $5.1 in additional salary for a winger. Still, the Flyers certainly go after the players they want, and cannot be dismissed entirely from Ryan trade scenarios.)
Bobby handicapped his own trade sweepstakes by publicly asking for a trade and citing Philly as his choice destination. Cherry Hill is basically in Philadelphia, and Bobby presumably grew up as a Flyers’ fan.
I had largely dismissed the idea of the Pens acquiring him because I thought for sure that Philadelphia was going to land him. While the Flyers continue to bump their heads against the Cap Ceiling, Team President and Comcast liaison Ed Snider basically has a blank checkbook with which to pursue players. The team is infamous for disappearing contracts by any means necessary when a new, shinier toy becomes available (such as Bobby). They are similarly known for completely low-balling teams during trade negotiations (such as offering Matt Read, Andrej Meszaros, and garbage picks for Shea Weber, the NHL’s best defenseman). Not to slight those players, but Matt Read’s mom would not take that deal if she were running Nashville.
The Good News for the Penguins is that the Flyers have little that they would offer for Ryan. For example, I would think Anaheim would want players like young forwards Wayne Simmonds and Sean Courturier, but I sincerely doubt the Flyers would be willing to part with players like that even for Bobby.
Beyond that, the Flyers have more pressing concerns. The presumptive loss of Chris Pronger, coupled with the free-agency defection of Matt Carle, leaves their defensive corps a little thin at the top. A bankable top-4 defenseman would seem to be a more-pressing concern than another scoring option at forward.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs’ GM Brian Burke both of course drafted Bobby and oversaw Team USA at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. While he would undoubtedly love to land Bobby, the team recently acquired a similar power-forward type in James van Riemsdyk. Furthermore, they are so thin at Center that the team is toying with the idea of slotting JVR between Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel on the top line. A trade for Bobby does not seem to fit for the Leafs, unless they want to give the Ducks Jake Gardiner back.
(UPDATE: Leafs’ GM Brian Burke has been fired. While this would not seem to alter the team’s plans, I suspect new General Manager Dave Nonis will be leveraged into pursuing upgrades at Center and Goaltender before he looks into options on the wing. While Nonis is Burke’s protege, Brian Burke’s tack has long been “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza”, and the man craps Red, White, and Blue. Nonis would no doubt like to acquire Bobby Ryan, but he does not have the same predilection that Brian Burke had.)
New York Rangers
I only mention them because they are clearly in “Win-Now” mode and have the assets needed to acquire him. One would think the Rangers would be content with the Nash acquisition, but you never know with Rangers’ GM Glen Sather.
(UPDATE: The Rangers are in Salary Cap Hell, and that problem is only going to get worse when the Cap is reduced to $64.3 Million next year. The team will presumably lop a large piece off their roster, but any leftover money will be going toward paying their Restricted Free Agents. Acquiring Bobby Ryan would no longer seem to be practical for the Rangers.)
New Jersey Devils
Bobby would certainly help offset the loss of Zach Parise and help the Devils stay competitive in the arms race that is the Atlantic Division, but the ownership uncertainties that helped nudge Parise out of town apply here. While the Devils could field a competitive offer, they likely do not want to relinquish the likes of Adam Henrique or Travis Zajac in order to land him.
A more troubling concern for Penguins’ fans wanting to acquire Bobby would be the number of teams at or below the Salary Cap Floor. While this would ordinarily be counter-intuitive, Bobby’s $5.1 million annual Cap Salary would appeal to a Colorado or a Winnipeg fighting to get Cap Compliant. Building Teams would be apt to having the desirable young assets Anaheim may want in return for Ryan.
Sleeping in the weeds may be the Detroit Red Wings, who have plenty of Cap Space and desperately need an injection of talent on both Forward and Defense. The question may be if Detroit has desirable enough assets (Valteri Filppula? Johan Franzen? Brendan Smith?) to acquire Bobby, or if those assets appeal enough to the Ducks’ brain-trust.
Finally: Let’s Talk Bobby Ryan to the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Rick Nash trade set the template: two above-average NHL players, a highly-regarded prospect, and a pick. You can debate the value of the players Columbus received in return for Nash, but for frame of reference Hockey Prospectus has Tim Erixon listed as their #11 Overall Prospect (who knew?)
That same list has Joe Morrow at #55 and Simon Despres at #68 (not to mention Brian Dumoulin down at #97 and Tom Kuhnhackl at #106). While teams have their own boards, the fact remains that Anaheim would want some of the Penguins’ vaunted defensive depth.
The Hockey Prospectus list did not include Eric Tangradi or Beau Bennett, though the crew at Hockey’s Future still think pretty highly of Big Dawg. Anaheim may have some interest in re-acquiring Tangradi, who would be pretty superfluous on the same team as Ryan. Bennett, for what it’s worth, is a California kid known for his hands and goal-scoring ability. Also, Hockey’s Future had Morrow up at #26 and Despres at #40, while Tim Erixon was down at #45 (with just behind him at Brian Dumoulin at #47). Again, each team has their own boards, but it is interesting to look at the above lists and compare.
It is hard to know what else Anaheim would want from the Penguins’ roster that is not considered an untouchable part. For example, no doubt Anaheim would do Kris Letang for Bobby Ryan, but the Penguins absolutely would not. While a deal for Ryan could include a roster player (such as Tyler Kennedy), if a deal is to be had, it will be built on prospects.
Would the Penguins do it?
Would they take on Bobby Ryan? Please do not be obtuse. Would they give up the package of assets necessary to likely complete a deal?
If I am running Anaheim, I am insisting on Simon Despres. I would find the idea of re-acquiring Eric Tangradi intriguing, especially since he could ostensibly fill a similar role on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry. A late first-round pick would be token, and adding a player like Tyler Kennedy to the deal would be appealing because of his usefulness and pending RFA status.
Would you do D Simon Despres, W Eric Tangradi, W/C Tyler Kennedy, and a 1st for W Bobby Ryan?
I do that deal because the Penguins obviously get the best player. It’s Bobby Ryan, presumably skating with Sid Crosby, under salary control. The team goes from “Scary” to “Terrifying” rolling consecutive units of Sid/Ryan/Pascal Dupuis and Geno/James Neal/Chris Kunitz.
I am very interested in having Despres on the team, but the Pens now have three style-comparable players right behind him in Morrow, Scott Harrington, and Dumoulin. While none of them are fleet-footed 6’4 skaters like Simon, all three are textbook “Pittsburgh Penguins” defensemen. All of the above players are lefties. All are two-way type defensemen, though Dumoulin projects as more of a stay-home type while Morrow appears to showcase a bit more offensive upside than Despres.
I like Tyler Kennedy and Eric Tangradi, but I see those players as “give to get” sacrifices. Tangradi, especially, seems to lose value at the NHL level if he is not playing in the Top-6, and as I wrote above, Ryan and Tangradi are somewhat similar in terms of the role they would fill on a team.
Lastly, it should be said that while acquiring Bobby Ryan would make the Penguins a Nightmare for opposing teams, his presence (along with the presumptive subtraction of Despres or Morrow) does not improve the Penguins’ defensive unit for 2012-13. I am fine with Letang-Orpik on one pair, but the team desperately needs reinforcement in the Top-4. The trade of Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix needs to be mitigated in some fashion, to say nothing of other holes that were exposed in the playoff loss to Philadelphia last spring. I am under the belief that Showtime is beating the bushes for a right-shot, Top-4 type to play on the second pairing (good luck with that, Rejean), but the market may dictate that buying stock in Bobby Ryan is more prudent than overpaying for a veteran defenseman in either assets or contract length.
(UPDATE: Showtime’s new plan seems to be keeping his defensive corps together with ducts tape and staples until help arrives in the form of Despres, Morrow, et al. I suspect the team will look to add a veteran defenseman to get through 2013, then re-evaluate following the season. If the team can do without him, the Pens would consider using a Compliance Buyout on Paul Martin to ensure they have enough Cap Space to sign Geno and Tanger. The addition of Bobby Ryan for 2013 does not factor into this, aside from the fact that Anaheim might ask for one of the team’s young Defensive prospects.)
I was confident the Penguins were going to land Zach Parise, and optimistic the team could put together a competitive offer for Rick Nash. Alas, I was wrong on both counts, but as the market has unfolded, the Penguins remain a potential landing spot for Ryan.
While I believe Showtime would have rather signed Shane Doan for one or two years and given Despres, Tangradi, et al. more time to develop, I think if he can get close on a Bobby Ryan deal, he will do what it takes to complete it. Again, while the team’s primary area of concern would seem to be on Defense, Help Is On The Way in the form of Despres, Morrow, Harrington, and Dumoulin (to say nothing of Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot). If Bobby is available, Showtime should pull the trigger knowing that the fearsome group up front and the reinforced goaltending would largely off-set the deficiencies on Defense.
Let’s Go Pens