What is Bobby Ryan actually worth? (Trending Topics)

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What is Bobby Ryan actually worth? (Trending Topics)
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The timing of this extension to Bobby Ryan from the Senators was very smart. That's the first thing to keep in mind about it.

They're essentially buying low on him for the second time in as many seasons. His 23-25-48 was the worst basic stat line — both overall and in terms of goals, assists, and points per game — he's had in a full season since he became a full-time NHLer in 2008-09. Merely getting 23 goals and 48 points from him is uncharacteristic to say the least, following four straight full seasons of 30-plus and at least 57 points in Anaheim.

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They traded for him when he only put up 11-19-30 in 46 post-lockout, which was disappointing across the board. Despite the long-percolating rumors of discontentment on both sides when he was with the Ducks, he likely wouldn't have even been available if he could have kept things in line with his career averages instead of dropping off a cliff harder than Wile E. Coyote. That they got him for Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen — good prospects but certainly not in Ryan's category at their respective absolute ceilings — plus the Sens' first-round pick in this past draft (No. 10 overall, used on Nick Ritchie) wasn't bad. Guys you can count on being regular 30-goal guys are very rare in this league, so again, even the availability was shocking.

Moreover, the fact that Ryan underperformed in terms of production last season (along with just about his entire team, to be fair) as well allowed them to lock him in at seven years and just $7.25 million per. Some people were initially galled by the price point, but for the most part people accepted this as a reasonable contract. A few observers speculated he might not have gotten much more than that on the open market if he had gone unrestricted this summer, but with the cap going up and the potential for more robust play in an important contract year, it wouldn't have been outlandish to see him grab $8 million from some team desperate for a top-line wing.

But the point is that Ryan got $7.25 million per, starting in 2015-16, and it's important to set up comparables in that range.

Let's assume that any forward whose contract starts with the number 7 and a comma, then, is roughly in that range. Once you get up above $8 million, you start to see names like Giroux, Kessel, and Getzlaf: Truly elite players. Once you get below $7 million, you see mostly aging stars, undervalued play drivers who don't put up huge boxcar numbers, emerging but tantalizing talents, and middle-aged guys who actually deserve that money (Joe Thornton and Henrik Zetterberg; Anze Kopitar and Patrice Bergeron; Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene; Thomas Vanek and Nicklas Backstrom, respectively).

At this point, the 2015-16 season looks to have 10 guys who will make between $7 million and $7.8 million, and here they are: 

Player (Age)/Team

AAV

(in millions)

Started

Ending

Rick Nash (30), CBJ/NYR

$7.80

2010-11

2017-18

Zach Parise (30), MIN

$7.54

2012-13

2024-25

Steven Stamkos (24), TBL

$7.50

2011-12

2015-16

Pavel Datsyuk (36), DET

$7.50

2014-15

2016-17

Bobby Ryan (27), OTT

$7.25

2015-16

2021-22

David Krejci (28), BOS

$7.25

2015-16

2020-21

Daniel Sedin (34), VAN

$7.00

2014-15

2017-18

Henrik Sedin (34), VAN

$7.00

2014-15

2017-18

Paul Stastny (28), STL

$7.00

2014-15

2017-18

Alex Semin (30), CAR

$7.00

2013-14

2017-18

It's interesting to note that of those 10 deals, only two — Stastny's and Parise's — were signed on the open free agent market (in fact, they're the only two making north of $7 million who didn't play for the teams that signed them prior to the big-money deals). That will usually serve to have some sort of depressive effect on their money per annum, so one must assume that Ryan took a bit of a discount here, just like everyone else did. 

Now we have to consider the play of these 10 players over the last few seasons to accurately assess their value. For our purposes, let's call it five years. And let's also only look at 5-on-5 play, which as we all know is the fairest test of player quality because things get wonky when you mix in special teams.

When looking purely at points per 60 minutes played at even strength, Ryan finishes seventh out of 10, at 2.18 per. That's just one basis point below Krejci (2.19) and four below Datsyuk (2.22). The guys behind him are Nash, Parise, and Stastny, in that order. However, all three of guys behind him played tougher competition, and Datsyuk played the hardest of all of them. Of the 10, though, only Stastny got less favorable zone starts. All but Nash and maybe Krejci would probably be considered better defensively, generating beneficial possession numbers through offensive quality, and not two-way play.

As for relative corsi numbers, Ryan was firmly lower-middle of the pack here as well: Sixth (3.13 percent), but miles ahead of spots Nos. 7-10 (Stamkos, Nash, Stastny, and Krejci, with Stamkos topping out at just 1.6 percent). It should be noted, too, that Ryan has been above water during that time while the rest of his teams have been pounded in possession. This was also the case with Stastny and Stamkos; all others had teams that could at least maintain 50 percent possession.

However, something that speaks against him, a little bit, is the fact that Ryan spent the last five years effectively in his prime production years (one's age 22-26 seasons or thereabouts), making relatively little money for his production. This is true, also, of Krejci, Semin, Stastny, and Parise. In this group of 10, only Stamkos is still in that area, while the rest are well past it. Therefore, Stamkos — an elite talent by any measure — is underpaid at $7.5 million and the Sedins and Datsyuk are being paid mainly for their past contributions.

Of course, it's perhaps unfair to compare Ryan's years with the Ducks in here (though a one-year sample creates problems of its own), but what we do know about his play in Ottawa was that when he made up a very solid top line with Clarke MacArthur and Kyle Turris, which could increase his value going forward as well. They played 59 games together, amassing 640 ES minutes, according to Progressive Hockey's Line Stats tool. Their goals-for rate was fifth in the league among lines that broke 500 minutes together (behind Lucic-Krejci-Iginla, Kessel-Bozak-van Riemsdyk, Voracek-Giroux-Hartnell, and Okposo-Tavares-Vanek). They also had the second-worst possession numbers of that group, but no one was afraid of any other line on the Senators last year, and they could throw a lot at them. That's why the Islanders trio was the only one worse.

Individually, though, Ryan's numbers with Ottawa aren't exactly dazzling, but they're solid. In terms of points per 60, he was tied for 25th (with Brad Marchand), which is solid for a top-line guy but not great. But his relative possession numbers weren't very good, and that goals-for number his line put up was buoyed by a .932 on-ice save percentage, well above league average.

So it becomes a question, then, of just how valuable this Ryan deal, which will pay him until just after his 35th birthday, really is to the Senators. One must also keep in mind, too, that despite giving Ryan this extension, the Senators will likely continue to operate under an internal budget — effectively a self-imposed salary cap — that will keep them at or near the bottom of the league in terms of player expenditures for some time to come. And thus, we cannot just view the Ryan contract simply in terms of his market value versus the ever-growing league salary cap, but rather the portion of the Sens' cap it takes up.

(On the other hand, you could also say that it doesn't matter how much Player X gets paid if a team isn't close to the cap, and that also makes sense).

Nonetheless, informed estimates have their current team budget in the $56 million range, which they're not going to exceed this season, but which they might not be able to avoid exceeding next year if the cap goes up enough. So let's say they're going to set that budget at $59 million, just as a thought exercise; this Ryan signing doesn't mean they're going to open the purse strings too significantly.

Paying Ryan $7.25 million against that $59 million gives him about 12.3 percent of the team's internal budget, and for a guy who's a clear first-line winger, that sounds about right, especially because most of the guys they're going to have to pay as RFAs aren't going to command much of a raise (Marc Methot, on the other hand, might). Ryan will be the highest-paid Senator next year (ahead of Erik Karlsson's $6.5 million, and no one else even breaks MacArthur's $4.65 million) and will likely remain that way until Kyle Turris comes up for a new deal in four more seasons.

What's interesting, though, is that because of that budget, this is money well-spent, because no one else is coming to Ottawa unless they improve in a hurry. Good players typically come to mediocre-to-bad teams only when they get paid a lot to do so, and the Senators weren't attracting that kind of player. By locking up Ryan, and having MacArthur and Turris signed for a while yet at affordable prices, the Senators have done an excellent job of keeping what should be a strong first line together for a while. You'll note that of those other top lines listed above, the only one that stayed together this summer is the one in Toronto.

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Further consider that this was in a down year for Ryan, and with Turris really only starting his upswing, and you see that's all that's really important here: The Senators doled out $52 million for the assurance that their top line would be at least this good going forward. If Ryan returns to form now that he's settled into Paul MacLean's system, then it's all the better. And at that point, $7.25 million for a 30-goal guy goes from reasonable deal to bargain in a hurry.

Even when you don't have money to spend, you have to spend it to retain top talent. Ottawa did that pretty wisely here.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.