Rumors out of southern California are that the Ducks might be shopping Bobby Ryan after an awful November has almost removed them from the Western Conference playoff picture already.
Could the Blackhawks be interested in Ryan? Should they be? And, if they are, what might it cost to get him to Chicago?
Should the Hawks be interested in Ryan? Absolutely! The 24-year-old has scored at least 31 goals in all three of his full seasons with the Ducks, finishing last year with a career-high 71 points in 82 games. Most importantly, Ryan is a left wing; he would naturally fit opposite either Patrick Kane or Marian Hossa on the Hawks’ top six, and would give the Hawks at least one line in their top six with three potential 30-40 goal scorers.
Ryan has three years left on his current deal, with a $5.1M cap hit. For a player with his skills and at his age, that isn’t an unreasonable dollar amount.
So the “should” question is simple. But whether or not the Hawks would consider him, and the cost, are the more important issues.
Ryan had 156 hits and 34 blocked shots for the Ducks last year, and would be a physical presence the Hawks are lacking in their top six. He played with Kane at the Olympics last year, and is one one of the really good young forwards in the game. He has found himself in the doghouse in Anaheim, though, and consistency has been the biggest complaint about him from the Ducks’ perspective.
The cost could be the most intriguing factor for the Hawks. For a good trade template, and relative cost for a player of Ryan’s ability, we only need to look back a few months to when Philadelphia traded Jeff Carter to Columbus.
Carter, 26, had more experience and success on his NHL resume, but also had a more prohibitive contract heading to the Jackets ($5.272M cap hit until 2022). The Flyers received Jakub Voracek, the eighth overall pick in the 2011 Draft, and a third-round pick for their young center.
Voracek, now 22, had 39 career goals when he was traded to Philadelphia this summer.
Obviously the Blackhawks won’t have anything as attractive as the eighth overall pick in the draft to offer, but draft position is the acceptable victim of success. They do, however, have some NHL players that could form a more attractive package than the Flyers received for Carter.
Bryan Bickell has 25 career NHL goals, and his hit numbers would provide (in theory) a physical player for the Ducks to slide into their lineup to partially replace Ryan. Bickell’s 17 goals last year are more than Voracek had in any NHL season before he was dealt.
The game-changer could be Niklas Hjalmarsson. He could partner with young Cam Fowler for the Ducks to give them a young, experienced, shot-blocking defenseman to fill their blue line for the next few years after veterans Francois Beauchemin and Kurtis Foster presumably leave as free agents this summer.
If the Blackhawks consider moving Hjalmarsson in a deal for Ryan, another move, whether it’s an addition via trade from outside the organization or a promotion of Ryan Stanton or Brian Connelly from Rockford, would likely have to follow to replace Hjalmarsson on the blue line.
Frankly, the Blackhawks have more glaring concerns on the back end of the ice than they do up front, where they’re among the league’s top scoring teams to date. Adding a physical forward like Ryan would be an improvement over Bickell, and would make the Blackhawks a devastating group of scorers, but their blue line would be further exposed if Hjalmarsson was included in a deal.
Using the Carter trade as a standard, a package of Bickell, Hjalmarsson and a mid-round pick (somewhere between the second and fourth round) could be enough for the Ducks to pull the trigger. If the Blackhawks needed to include a prospect, there is certainly enough forward depth that moving a forward wouldn’t compromise the organizational depth GM Stan Bowman has built in the last few years.
So could the Hawks be interested? Certainly. Should they? Absolutely. Could the Hawks afford the salary cap hit and asset cost in trade to bring Ryan to Chicago? Sure. Will it happen? Who knows… but it’s very doubtful.
The odds that Bowman would make a move to add another $5M forward to this team are probably less than five percent. But with a name like Ryan on the market, it’s interesting to consider.