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The problem with trading a pick for Vegas to claim Bobby Ryan

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There are dangers in making sure a player gets picked

Ottawa Senators v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

So first off, I’d just like to apologize for some false hope I gave a couple weeks ago. I said Bobby Ryan may be overpaid, but he was definitely still an NHL player. He’s been injured recently, but when he has played, he hasn’t been great. He’s at least generated a few shots, but he seems slow and ineffective. At one point, the list of forwards I’d rather have on the ice than Ryan was pretty small: Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, maybe Derick Brassard. But now you can add Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Zack Smith to that list. You could argue the team was better when Ryan Dzingel drew back into the lineup for the injured (Bobby) Ryan. That’s not a good place to be. He still has a place in the lineup (in my opinion) when he’s healthy, but it keeps slipping lower.

All of this has led some people to ask what it would take for the Vegas Golden Knights to claim Ryan in the expansion draft. I’m pretty sure George McPhee wants no part of Ryan’s contract, but Ottawa also won’t have a must-take player available, so some have suggested Ottawa trading a pick in order for Vegas to take Ryan. In theory, it’s not a bad idea. Opening up $7M in salary over the next five years is probably worth a 2nd-round pick. Some have even said it could be worth a 1st-round pick, and even if you think that’s a steep price to pay, you can probably see the logic. Ryan is going to cost Ottawa over the next few years.

But here’s the problem with that strategy: it sends a terrible message about Ottawa. For this expansion draft, all draft picks in exchange for Vegas doing/not doing something have to be above board. So it would be public knowledge that Ottawa gave up an asset to Vegas in exchange for them promising to take a player off Ottawa’s hands. This sets up a reputation of Ottawa being that place that sours on guys they give big contracts to. It also could send ripples through the dressing room.

Ottawa has been rumoured to have issues with management causing distrust among players, most notably with John Muckler’s sign-and-trade of Marian Hossa to the Thrashers. Rumour has it that treatment of Hossa was a big reason why fellow Slovak Zdeno Chara decided to leave a couple years later. Though there were many other reasons behind Chara leaving, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that other players thought twice about joining the Sens after that. And with the Sens once again near the top of most players’ no-trade lists [paywall warning], they can hardly afford to give players reasons not to join the team.

There are reasons this might be an overreaction too. There will only be 31 NHL teams, and far more people wanting to playing in the NHL than available spots. I just want to point out these things don’t happen in a vacuum. As much as it’s a business, it’s a business that impacts people’s lives. Ottawa would have to think long and hard about the possible fall-out of publicly announcing “Removing Bobby Ryan is worth our first-round pick” before actually doing it.