Derek Ryan has quietly made an impact on the Calgary Flames roster by not only being flexible to changing lines and wavering playing time, but also by settling into his ever changing roles. For being a veteran player that played in the majority of games for this team in the last three seasons, he tended to fall under the radar as far as evaluations go. It makes you wonder if that was done by design.
Derek Ryan has worked his way up through the hockey world, progressing through nine different leagues over the course of his career. He has also represented his country on two separate occasions when he suited up for the United States in the 2018 and 2019 IIHF World Championships. He came home with some hardware in 2018 when the US took bronze in the tournament.
After four seasons in Europe, Ryan played in his first North American professional season in 2015-16 where he spent most of the year as the captain of the then-AHL affiliate of the Hurricanes, the Charlotte Checkers. He played in 70 AHL games and six NHL games in that year. Those numbers practically flipped in the next season when he played in 67 games in Carolina and nine games in Charlotte. He went on to play one more season with the Hurricanes before signing in Calgary as a free agent in 2018. His three-year contract will expire on July 28.
Derek Ryan was “that” guy in the lineup. The one that could shift from line to line and play his role wherever it was needed. You don’t hear a lot out of Ryan because he honestly seemed to be there to make his linemates look better. His individual expectations may shift from game to game. Ryan quietly puts up the points to still be an NHL calibre player, but he’s not going to be the player that will surprise everyone with a point streak or come off a four-point, multi-goal game.
In his first season with the Flames in 2018-19, he had his highest point per game average and matched his points from his previous season with the Carolina Hurricanes with 38 points. To date, those seasons tie for his most productive seasons in the NHL.
Ryan took a bit of a hit in the points department in the past season. In 43 games, he put up two goals and 11 assists for 13 points. 13 was an unlucky number for him all around, as that was the number of games he missed due to injury. Ryan came pretty close to matching his face-off numbers from last year with 52%.
You’ve got to wonder if the coaching change had an effect on him too. Not only did Ryan score less after the change-over to Darryl Sutter, but he also shot substantially less as well. He registered only 37 shots on goal this past season, while in the two prior seasons with the Flames he had103 shots. Makes you wonder if the coaching staff wanted him to sit back a bit and leave the shooting to the more elite shooters. However, if you are a player finding yourself in a situation to take a shot, why not take it? Could be a sign his legs aren’t as young as they used to be.
As the trade deadline approached last season, Derek Ryan was overshadowed with the moves of David Rittich and Sam Bennett, but nonetheless was a possible trading piece if another team in the league would have him. He knew this and accepted what his fate may have been back in April:
In terms of trade deadline, that’s out of my hands so it’s not really worthwhile for me to worry about it or stress about it. Whatever happens, happens. I’d be happy to be here in Calgary after the deadline, but it’s out of my control.
At the time, Brad Treliving obviously did not get any offers that were worth entertaining as Ryan finished the season with the Flames. One can only assume the thoughts of the future are something on the mind of Ryan this summer.
However, if he is set to leave the team, he is leaving on a good note: Ryan finished the regular season for the Flames as the second star in the season finale against the Vancouver Canucks. A well-deserved recognition as he put up three assists in the 6-2 win.
Ryan is an unrestricted free agent that does not even need to be protected in the expansion draft because the Flames do not currently have the rights to him. Which can be a good and a bad thing. He has the potential to be an easy and affordable free agency snatch for a new team like the Seattle Kraken or any other team in the league looking to add some depth in center down the lineup. However, he did not come very cheap for the Flames.
Ryan was a $3.125 million investment last season and did not have the offensive numbers to back it up. It might be a better option to either negotiate a much friendlier deal to the cap space or just cut him loose to make room for a younger center in or outside the organization. Other teams in the league may look at his numbers and be thinking similar things.
Derek Ryan is considered a veteran player at this point, being 34 years of age with six seasons played in the NHL. He might not be at the very top of his game anymore, so the scouting evaluation needs to take that into consideration. Was this season just an off season for him in the way it was for the entire team? Or is he reaching the decline in his abilities to keep up in the league?
Would he be worth the investment for another season? In some respects, that depends on the amount of interest in Ryan around the league and if the Flames still feel like they have a spot for him in the lineup. Derek Ryan seems to have a good rapport with the team but there definitely is a chance he won’t be putting on a Flames sweater in the 2021-22 season, especially if he comes with the same price tag he has had the last three seasons.