A few weeks ago I argued that the Dallas Stars should make a move for Milan Lucic. Sort of. Lucic himself was irrelevant beyond being a mechanism I could use to make a larger point about Dallas’ ability to ingest a rough contract in pursuit of a larger benefit. This time, however, I am dead serious. As the trade deadline approaches, and as they stare down the barrel of back-to-back shutout losses, Jim Nill should pick up his phone, call Pierre Dorion, and make an offer for Bobby Ryan.
Yes, Bobby Ryan. The point I am making, in full seriousness, is that Ryan, one of the NHL’s most well-known salary albatrosses, would make the Dallas Stars better. He would immediately step into fourth on the team in goals (12), third in assists (22), and fourth in total points (34). He would also help a not awesome power play (16th in the league at an even 20%). With the extra man, Ryan has 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists), again good for fourth on the Stars. Even if we ignore roster effects, can you imagine the benefit 34 extra points would yield for a team with out-of-this-world goaltending?
It’s not like the struggling Senators are force-feeding Ryan ice time either. Those points have come on an average of 15:50 each night. That’s more than Jason Spezza (13:57), and comparable to the likes of Radek Faksa (16:23), Mattias Janmark (15:11), Blake Comeau (15:22), and Tyler Pitlick (13:41). Pitlick, by the way, is hurt, and will likely miss the remainder of the regular season. It seems likely the Stars could give Ryan close to what he’s getting in Ottawa without negatively impacting their team defense or penalty kill (there is unlikely to be situational overlap between Ryan and, say, Comeau).
But, really, Bobby Ryan?
Chew on this: the Dallas Stars are 29th out of 31 teams with 149 goals scored through 58 games, were 18th last season, and 17th in 2016-2017. This is not a sample-size thing, nor can blame be laid at the feet of an early season injury to all-world defender John Klingberg or a Jamie Benn slump (which we’ve already proven is not really a thing). No, the Dallas Stars are bad offensively, and have been for the better part of three full seasons. They have been bad for so long, in fact, that the idea they have some magic-bullet solution already in the organization is extremely unlikely.
It’s a performance window thing. Tyler Seguin (27), Alex Radulov (32), Jamie Benn (29), and even John Klingberg (26) need help now. Even if Roope Hintz (22 years old, 8 points) or Denis Gurianov (21 years old, 4 points) were surefire, someday-superstars, the fact that they are not RIGHT NOW is significant. Throw in an unexpectedly down Western Conference and a sense of urgency begins to emerge. You have to fix the problem anyways, why not fix it now and maybe take a save percentage-fueled run? Unless your gamble is that what fans are seeing from Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin is a performance norm that will be sustained for the next several seasons, I guess.
Plus, and here’s the real argument, Ryan is probably cheap. While it would improve the Stars, 34 points in 55 games is hardly superstar-level production. More to the point, it is not in the ballpark of justifying a $7.25 million cap hit through 2021-2022. It is a terrible deal, just terrible. Ryan’s contract is so bad, in fact, that it is rumored Ottawa’s insistence a deadline deal for Erik Karlsson include the forward scuttled a move to Vegas in 2018. It is entirely possible a Senators team unlikely to compete in the immediate future would settle for middling assets if it meant getting out from under the Ryan contract.
But if it’s such a bad deal, you argue, won’t it also sink the Stars? Thing is, Dallas is well-positioned to weather the storm. Jason Spezza ($7.5 million), Mattias Janmark ($2.3 million), and Brett Ritchie ($1.75 million) come off the books at forward next season. On the blueline, Marc Methot ($4.9 million), Roman Polak ($1.3 million), and Connor Carrick ($1.3 million) see their contracts expire. Esa Lindell ($2.2 million) and Janmark’s likely extensions will eat into that a little bit, but not enough to make Ryan a non-starter.
Now, look at the core of this roster. Among forwards, Alex Radulov is signed through 2021-2022. Nobody important comes up any earlier than that. Ditto on the backend (Klingberg is a UFA that same offseason), and between the pipes (Anton Khudobin is signed through 2019-2020 and Ben Bishop through 2023-2024). This team is already pot-committed for the next several seasons, and it isn’t working. Time to get creative.
Ignore the contract, acquire the points.
Bobby Ryan represents an opportunity to spin lower-tier assets into marginal immediate help plus the lottery ticket that a change of scenery just might push him closer to the 15-points-in-19-games version that got Ottawa within a goal of the 2016-2017 Stanley Cup Final. Heck the Sens might even eat part of the cost — stranger things have been known to happen. Even if Ryan shows no improvement, he is still on pace for 48 points across an 82-game season. For this Stars team, that is a significant upgrade. (Sob.)
Things are so bad, in other words, that by himself Bobby Ryan could help the Dallas Stars. Of course, if Ryan would help, why not throw Hintz and picks into a larger deal that also nets Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, or Ryan Dzingel? If you swing for the fences and end up with Ryan as a consolation, it’s still improvement on the current roster — and the status quo isn’t good enough this season.