When rumors emerged in early May that Sweden’s Malmo Redhawks were interested in signing defenseman Joakim Ryan, it didn’t make much noise. After all, the Carolina Hurricanes were marching towards the postseason and Ryan was not going to sign before the end of the season, even if he wasn’t seeing regular ice time with the club. Well, the postseason came and went for the ’Canes and Ryan stayed firmly planted in the press box through two series. It was apparently enough to convince him that perhaps a break from the NHL was in order. Ryan’s camp returned to negotiations with Malmo and the result was today’s announcement that the blue liner has signed a one-year deal with the Redhawks.
This is not exactly the homecoming that some might be thinking. Sure, Ryan is of Swedish descent and holds Swedish citizenship. However, Ryan was born in New Jersey and spent more of his childhood in the United States than in Sweden, including all of his formative hockey years. Yet, what little time Ryan did spent overseas meant something to him. Ryan has stated on several occasions that he has an affinity for the Malmo area and would like to play there at some point in his career. This coming season, he will get that chance.
The real question now is just how long Ryan’s stay in Sweden will last. As part of an incredibly deep Carolina defense corps in 2020-21, it is no surprise that he was used sparingly, playing in four games apiece in the NHL and AHL. However, Ryan is just a few years removed from being an everyday starter for the San Jose Sharks, where he spent the first four years of his pro career. Even last season, spent with the Los Angeles Kings, Ryan only played in 35 games – about have of L.A.’s shortened schedule – but saw top-four minutes when he was on the ice. A player who is known for dependable performance in a pinch, Ryan has demonstrated his value as an NHL depth asset. He seemingly chased a dream with this Malmo signing, but a strong year in the SHL and the potential promise of more money and the chance to compete at the highest level once again could have back home in North America soon. At 27, Ryan still has plenty of gas in the tank.