The hope has to be this one works out better.
It’s not like the Ottawa Senators haven’t gone deep and long with player investments before signing Bobby Ryan to a seven-year, $50.75 million extension Thursday morning.
And it’s not like Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, when they seemed to become Senators forever back in ’07, were disastrous signings that did nothing for the team.
It’s just that eventually, both Spezza and Heatley demanded to be set free from the nation’s capital. Under different circumstances, as an unrestricted free agent, Daniel Alfredsson decided he’d rather be in Detroit.
So really, the way in which this one needs to work out for the Sens, and their fan base is for Ryan to stay for good. To love the team and the city back, in other words. To commit and perform and stay.
In that light, Thursday’s announcement was a very important one, particularly after months of speculation that Ryan wasn’t interested in signing long-term, which might even lead to Ottawa having to trade him this season rather than lose him as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
By signing, Ryan has expressed confidence in the direction of the team that Alfredsson, and Spezza, really, did not over the past year. The club is challenged economically these days, with owner Eugene Melnyk unwilling to make the Sens a cap team, and the ability of Ottawa to compete for a playoff berth this season is unclear after missing post-season play a year ago.
Defenceman Erik Karlsson, who was also named the ninth captain of the team Thursday, is signed through the 2018-19 season, so if it wasn’t clear before, these are the Karlsson/Ryan Senators, and maybe goalie Robin Lehner will become the third major piece of that faces-of-the-franchise group eventually.
If Ryan had rejected the Senators by declining to sign a long-term agreement after just one season following his July 2013 trade from Anaheim, it would have been a crushing blow. Yes, he could have been traded this season for significant returns, but this team needed to have a player say he wanted to stay.
Moreover, the cap hit at $7.25 million per is reasonably manageable if Ryan stays productive or, even better, if he becomes more productive. His best season so far is 35 goals back in 2009-10, and he had 23 in 70 games last season. The gamble from Ottawa’s side, is that at 27 he’s entering his peak production years and can consistently average 35-40 goals per season over the next five years.
The signing also takes a bit of the heat off the Marc Methot negotiations, which have proved to be oddly contentious so far.
Ryan, meanwhile, was the second pick in 2005 after Sidney Crosby, and at this point looks to be the sixth best player in that draft after Crosby, Carey Price, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask, depending how you feel about Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kris Letang, Paul Stastny, T.J. Oshie, Keith Yandle and James Neal.
Being the guy picked after Crosby has been a tough tag to carry. Now, however, Ryan has signed up for a different level of scrutiny that ultimately Alfredsson, Spezza and Heatley chose to leave behind.
We’ll see how he responds.