Flyin’ Ryan Too Costly For Toronto?


In 2005, the NHL was returning to work after a year long lockout, a bitter battle between players and owners over cost certainty.  The entry draft in June of 2005 was really the beginning of a new era in hockey, and a new era for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted Sidney Crosby first overall, a move that would change their fortunes forever.

Drafted second that year was Bobby Ryan.  A big bodied power forward with tremendous skill, I had the chance to watch Ryan in person blaze up and down the ice for the Owen Sound Attack.  One look at Ryan moving swiftly between checkers, puck on a string as he bobbed and weaved his way into a prime scoring area, and it was clear.

This dude was one heck of a consolation prize.

And the GM who was afforded that consolation prize, as you are all aware, was one Brian Burke.

Then the GM of the Anaheim Ducks, Burke took Ryan second overall, and it appeared a match made in heaven.  Ryan, an American born power forward on the ice, oozed confidence as he showed off scoring touch in junior.

Burke, an American born power forward in the board room, oozed confidence as he took the task of steering the Anaheim Ducks to their first Stanley Cup championship.

For his part, Ryan struggled somewhat in his first year in the professional game.  While his totals in the AHL were good, his time in the NHL for Anaheim saw him play below expectations, leading to rumours of a potential deal.  Oddly enough, the team in question was the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Ryan righted the ship however, and in a few short years has become one of the premier young forwards in the NHL.  With two 30 goal seasons under his belt (including one in his true rookie year, in which he only played 64 games) he proved his draft status, and proved that the Ducks had a true game changer on their hand, to compliment their already young core of players such as Getzlaf, Hiller, and Perry.

As is becoming a prevalent storyline in today’s cap world, teams only seem to have a short window of opportunity in which to achieve success with the core group (see Chicago Blackhawks, who potentially may have to move assets this summer to cure a cap situation.)

Upon first glance, the Ducks look to be in alright shape.  They have just under $37 million committed to players next season, and with only players like Neidermayer, Selanne, and Koivu to resign, it would seem likely that the Ducks shouldn’t have much problem offering up a long term deal to Bobby Ryan.

However, rumours and rumblings continue to persist that the two sides are far apart.

Ryan, for his part, is said to be seeking in the area of $5 million plus if you believe the hearsay.  The Ducks, for their part, don’t seem willing to go that high, if what is making the rounds is to be believed as legitimate fodder.

And with Ryan scheduled to become a restricted free agent on July 1st, the fear of an offer sheet is very real for Bob Murray and company in Anaheim, and while the draft picks would be a nice return, Murray may be faced with trading Ryan’s rights away for a packaged deal that could help his team long term.

Enter Brian Burke.

After all, it only makes sense.

Burke is a loyal guy, of this we can all attest.  He also likes to go with what he knows.  There have been many instances and examples of Burke bringing players who he is familiar with and used to have on his team to his current organization, the latest of which s J.S. Giguere, who was brought to Toronto in a January trade for Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala.

Burke loves Ryan.  This is nothing new.  He drafted him.  He had him on the Olympic team.  And really, why shouldn’t he?

After all, Bobby Ryan has proven to be a big time goal scorer, starring for USA in the Olympics, where the Red, White, and Blue made a run all the way to the gold media game, where they of course came up short against Team Canada.

After Burke’s declaration earlier in the spring that he was looking for a “top six forward with size” it is easy for many fans to put two and two together.

However, there may be one thing that keeps this deal merely a dream for fans of Leafs Nation.

The cost.

It isn’t unlike the iPhone 4, or the X-box 360, or Playstation 3.  It’s a damn cool piece of commodity.  Everyone wants one.  Unfortunately, not everyone can justify spending the money needed to make the transaction.

And one has to wonder if the Leafs aren’t in a similar situation.

Despite his rumoured contract squabbles, the Anaheim Ducks will not give Bobby Ryan away.  We all know this.  And in the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one has to wonder if they have the resources to pull off this move, especially after last September’s bold move to acquire Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins.

The most obvious route, and perhaps the most affordable, would be to open discussions as it relates to Tomas Kaberle, a player many believe is as good as gone from the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.

With Scott Neidermayer uncertain of whether he will return for another season in the NHL, Tomas Kaberle could step up and fill the void quite nicely, giving the Ducks a power play quarterback, and a player who could utilize the Ducks speed by springing players like Getzlaf and Perry with stretch passes.

But what exactly would it take?   We can all agree it would be Kaberle plus.  But plus what?

Could Tomas Kaberle and Nazem Kadri/Luke Schenn get it done?  Probably.

But is that a cost Leafs fans and management alike are willing to pay?  After all, while Bobby Ryan is no doubt one of the more skilled young players in the NHL, and would be a great compliment alongside Phil Kessel, would it be worth trading some of our better prospects, and our top trading chip, to get it done?

Perhaps it would, but it would likely be the only way to get a deal done.

Without Tomas Kaberle included in the package for Bobby Ryan, I just don’t think it’s smart to deal with the Ducks.  Certainly there is no denying the ability of Ryan, and what he would bring to this team, but unless we can have a deal with the Ducks that includes Tomas Kaberle, the cost would simply be too much.

If the Ducks aren’t interested in Kaberle, where do you go from there if you’re Brian Burke?

Probably Nazem Kadri or Luke Schenn.  And to me, sacrificing more of the future shouldn’t be in the cards right now.

If a deal for Bobby Ryan can be brokered using Kaberle as the main source of discussions, than I would be all for it, as would Brian Burke I assume.

A deal without Kaberle though, shouldn’t truly be a deal.

No matter how skilled he is, the Leafs cannot afford to trade the likes of Kadri or Schenn in exchange for the services of another player, it would be more or less a repeat of the Phil Kessel deal, which I don’t disagree with, but I wouldn’t want to do it twice in the span of a year.

They’d be better off saving their young prospects, and signing an Ilya Kovalchuk this summer.  Because even though there is a cap, a player like Ilya Kovalchuk would only cost Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment cold hard cash, and I think we can all agree they’d manage with a little less.