Photo: Linnea Nyangen / Orebro Hockey
The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reported yesterday that the Caps are believed to be in the mix for Derek Ryan, a 28-year-old American center who led the Swedish Hockey League in scoring last year, following a report by Elliotte Friedman about NHL clubs’ interest in Ryan in early May.
The Avalanche are the likely frontrunners for Ryan’s services and the Leafs are another team reported to be looking at the Spokane-born forward.
Like Chambers, I do not think Ryan will make the NHL out of the training camp, and whoever gets him can’t pencil him in as an NHL player. In fact, I think it’s quite unlikely that he’ll ever become a full-time NHL player. But even if he doesn’t, there are other benefits from signing him.
One of Ryan’s goals for Orebro from last season.
It’s a well-known fact that in many cases, AHL and NHL clubs have different views on how their farm system should work. That’s especially true when talking about a franchise as storied as the Hershey Bears. The Bears want to focus on winning first and developing prospects for the Caps second.
In most cases, winning is achieved by acquiring top minor league players (most of whom don’t carry any NHL potential) and giving them a lot of ice time, instead of providing the prospects with experience. Are there examples to the contrary? Sure. Jon Cooper’s gang that won Calder Cup for Norfolk in 2011-12 comes to mind, featuring current NHLers Trevor Smith, Richard Panik, Radko Gudas, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, and, most notably, Tyler Johnson. Another example is Bruce Boudreau’s Bears, many of whom went on to become long-time Caps.
Still, these cases are rather rare.
This summer, the Bears are supposed to receive the biggest influx of NHL prospect talent in many years in Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey, Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Christian Djoos, and Tyler Lewington. Undoubtedly, the Capitals will want their prospects to play as much as possible. But to satisfy the Bears’ fans and ownership Calder Cup aspirations, they also need to bring more experienced players into the fold with emphasis on quality, not quantity, to allow prospects to receive ice time they need to develop. And when it comes to quality and experience, Ryan is arguably at the very top of the UFA market.
What makes him an even more attractive target is that Ryan doesn’t fall under limitations of the development (or veteran) rule in the AHL.
Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season.
In plain English, it means you can not have more than six veteran players in one game. 28-year-old Ryan has just four pro seasons under his belt, and since teams in Europe play less games than in North America, he has just 213 regular season games on his resume.
The Bears already have two veterans signed for next season in Erik Burgdoerfer and Dustin Gazley. If Caps decide to use Philipp Grubauer as NHL back-up next season but keep Justin Peters in the minors, it’ll make it three veterans on the Bears roster. Two of last year’s Bears’ vets and best players — Tim Kennedy and Casey Wellman — signed in the KHL this week, and seven more (Chris Conner, Tomas Kundratek, Jim O’Brien, Kris Newbury, Steve Oleksy, Dane Byers, Philippe Cornet) are set to become unrestricted free agents.
All things considered, players like Derek Ryan are who the Caps need to target this off-season in order to keep their AHL affiliate happy and provide extensive development to their prospects.
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