With the trade deadline approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that have a good chance to be dealt by February 26th.
In 2016-17, Derek Ryan made headlines as a 30-year-old playing in his first full NHL season after working his way to the highest level through levels like the Canadian University system and pro leagues in Hungary and Austria. The Carolina Hurricanes forward was even nominated for the Masterton Trophy to recognize the perseverance and dedication in took to stick with his NHL dreams much longer than most. In 2017-18, the narrative has changed from Ryan, the feel-good story, to Ryan, the legitimate NHL asset. If you thought Ryan’s 29 points in 67 games as an unheralded, aging rookie was impressive, take a look at his 26 points through 20 fewer games so far this year. Ryan has quietly established himself as a capable, versatile forward and with the Carolina Hurricanes again looking like the odd man out in the Metropolitan Division, the next chapter in Ryan’s story could be that of a key Trade Deadline acquisition.
Ryan re-signed with the Hurricanes this past summer on a one-year, one-way deal worth $1.425MM. By the Trade Deadline, Ryan will count for less than $500K against the salary cap. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
In 47 games, Ryan has nearly matched his offensive totals from last season, and then some. Ryan has already tied his 11 goals and is only three assists shy of his 18 and has done so in 20 fewer games. Ryan is on pace for 19 goals and 26 assists if he stays with the Hurricanes, though even the smallest hot streak, or perhaps a change of scenery, could push him over 20 goals or 30 assists. This season, Ryan has also been a superior five-on-five player, earning the trust of head coach Bill Peters and, in turn, more ice time. Even with a greater role and more exposure this season, Ryan has elite Corsi numbers and has been the best possession player on the roster. Ryan continues to be an asset at the face-off dot too, with a team-leading 56.3% success rate on nearly 600 draws thus far. He’s seen a slight uptick in hits and takeaways without an increase in penalty minutes as, despite a -13 rating that isn’t a true reflection of his game, he continues to be a two-way force who suppresses the opposition better than most of his fellow Carolina forwards. He often takes the ice against the best the other team has to offer and, compared to the team’s -17 goal differential, does well for himself. By all accounts, Ryan has taken another step forward in all facets in 2017-18.
47 GP, 11 goals, 15 assists, 26 points, -13 rating, 10 PIM, 92 shots, 16:18 ATOI, 56.9 CF%
While most teams did not even his know his name a few short years ago, Ryan will now be a sought-after depth addition at the Trade Deadline. A responsible, well-rounded forward, Ryan is the type of player that nearly any team could use for the stretch run. With the versatility to play all three forward positions, the depth to his game to line up on the second, third, or fourth line depending on fit and need, and a cap hit that is a total non-factor, there is spot on every contender’s roster for Ryan this season. Who could use him the most? The league’s top team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are a bit top-heavy on offense and could use a player like Ryan to add balance to their forward corps. The San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers are in a similar boat. Neither of those three teams have a specific, identifiable need that Ryan could fill, but could greatly use the flexibility he provides as a depth asset.
More specifically, Ryan could be another option for the Pittsburgh Penguins in their continued search for a third-line center. However, the Hurricanes may want to avoid trading Ryan to one of the teams they would need to leapfrog to make the playoffs – especially one with back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. Two other top contenders, the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals, could really use Ryan as an anchor on their fourth lines. Both teams could use an injection of talent on their energy line, as well as another forward who could fill in throughout the lineup, as they march toward the postseason. The Bruins’ responsible, two-way, possession-heavy game especially seems to fit Ryan.
Likelihood of a Trade
The Derek Ryan story has been a great one, but it’s time for the Carolina Hurricanes to move on. Ryan has been a major surprise and a great addition to the lineup the past two years, but the ’Canes face an uphill battle to make the playoffs and should get what they can for all of their impending UFA’s. If they so choose, Carolina could bring Ryan back in free agency, but it’s no use holding onto him for this season. The 31-year-old second-year NHLer faces a limited window to win the ultimate prize, a Stanley Cup, and in the midst of an outstanding season, he deserves to join a contender. Despite his amazing climb from the bowels of the hockey world to the highest level, Ryan remains a name that few people really know. Yet, expect him to quietly garner a lot of attention over the next month.