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Bobby Ryan gets his contract - now comes the real pressure

Bobby Ryan signed a seven-year contract extension that kicks in after this season and if he can return to the 30-goal form he displayed in Anaheim, it will be a great deal for both the team and the player. How Ryan handles the pressure will be key.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Now we’re going to see just how much intensity Bobby Ryan has. One thing is certain, though. If he can’t even spell the word the way Brian Burke suggested last season, he can afford to hire someone now to spell it for him…in every language that has ever been conceived.

Ryan acknowledged that adjusting from the laid-back Anaheim to the hockey fishbowl of Ottawa was challenging for him. Well, he ain’t seen nothin’ yet. If he thought his first year in Ottawa was intense, wait until he has to deal with the pressure of living up to the seven-year contract extension worth $50.75 million he signed Thursday morning. Now that the Senators have made a long-term, very lucrative commitment to them, their fans will be expecting an awful lot of him in the future – certainly much, much more than he delivered in his first season in Ottawa.

When Ryan’s extension kicks in next season, he’ll be making an average of $725,000 per season more than franchise cornerstone and new captain Erik Karlsson. That doesn’t make it a bad deal at all. After all, the whole idea of salary disclosure is that players who sign more recent deals leapfrog those who signed before and everyone just keeps getting richer.

In fact, given the circumstances, it’s probably a pretty reasonable deal for the Senators. You have to first start with the premise that at this point in their history, the Senators are going to have to overpay for star players. Ryan has yet to accomplish what players such as Phil Kessel ($8 million per season) and Zach Parise ($7.54 million per season), so it stands to reason that he would not be paid at their level. On the other hand, Joe Pavelski had a 41-goal season in 2013-14 and will be paid only $6 million each of the next five seasons.

(Ryan’s contract breakdown goes like this: $6.5 million in 2015-16; $7 million in 2016-17; $7.25 million in ’17-18 and $7.5 million per season for the last four years of the deal. He gets $2 million in signing bonus in each of the seven years. He cannot be waived or sent to the minors, but the Senators can ask him to submit a list of 10 teams to which he would refuse a trade if they wish to deal him at any point in the contract.)

But $7.25 million a year isn’t an outrageous amount for Ryan, but that’s only if he returns to the 30-goal-per-season form he displayed in his early days with the Anaheim Ducks. The past two years have not been good from that standpoint. During the lockout season of 2012-13, he had the equivalent of a 19-goal season, then had just 23 last season. Even more concerning is the fact that after 42 games last season, Ryan had 18 goals and 37 points. In the next 28 games, he had just 5-6-11 totals before shutting it down because of a sports hernia.

Playing through the pain of the injury that ended his season undoubtedly had an effect on Ryan, but you have to wonder whether the snub by the U.S. Olympic team and Burke’s harsh comments about his intensity didn’t affect him. You see, Ryan’s 18-19-37 totals were posted before Dec. 31. Going into the New Year, he had scored in four of five games and was sitting second in scoring only to Karlsson.

But then came Jan. 1 and the U.S. Olympic team was announced without Ryan on the roster. Then came a piece by reported Scott Burnside, who was embedded with the USA Hockey brain trust through its selection process, during which Burke uttered his the now-infamous words to describe the player he drafted second overall in 2005 when he was GM of the Ducks: “He’s a passive guy. He is not intense. That word is not in his vocabulary. It’s never going to be in his vocabulary. He can’t spell intense.”

Whether it was the Team USA omission and Burke’s harsh judgment, the lingering injury or some other factor that slowed Ryan last season, it is going to have to be better. Ryan will now have to face the pressures of performing in a hockey-mad market where there are lots of opinions and there’s a ton of scrutiny. How will he handle the criticism that comes with a losing streak or a patch of low productivity? How will he deal with the growing pains that come with a team that is currently trying to rebuild and will undoubtedly take its lumps the next couple of seasons?

How he handles that scrutiny and produces will determine whether or not this deal was a good one. If he can and returns to his 30-40-goal form, the Senators will have made an outstanding deal. If it goes the other way, it will make the Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson divorces look amicable by comparison.


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