For the first time in a while, the Calgary Flames go into the NHL trade deadline as sellers as opposed to buyers. And although the Stanley Cup may be out of reach for this year, the Flames still have an opportunity to pick up some draft picks to help them in their quest down the road.
One of the players that the Flames could look to move is Derek Ryan, who currently sits 33rd on TSN’s Trade Bait List. A strong bottom-six option, Ryan has six points in 27 games this season and has been arguably the Flames’ best depth player this season. He leads the team in corsi for percentage, scoring chances for percentage, and high-danger chances for percentage. For more on what these terms mean, check out our primer here.
Looking at the chart below from HockeyViz.com, Ryan is a strong offensive option as well as a very good defensive forward. The top left shows that when he is on the ice, the team is expected to score more often than when he is not. The bottom left shows that when he is on the ice, the team is expected to allow fewer goals against than when he is off the ice.
On top of his stats, Ryan is 34 years of age and brings a strong veteran presence to the team. While he was injured earlier in the season, the Flames’ bottom-six looked listless and lost, prompting many to realize the impact that Ryan adds when a part of the lineup. While he may not put up a ton of points, he is a 200-foot player and the type of guy that teams want when they are looking to make a deep run in the playoffs.
As good as Ryan is, the biggest impediment to trading him is his cap hit. He is on the last year of his deal which pays him $3.125 million. With the flat cap and the number of teams spent right to the limit, the Flames will either need to take a player with a similar value or retain some of Ryan’s salary.
The trade for Eric Staal is a good comparable. Montreal gave up a third and a fifth-round pick to Buffalo and the Sabres retained half of his $2.25 million dollar salary. Like Ryan, the 36-year-old Staal had just ten points this season and was brought in to Montreal as a fourth-line centre. While Ryan is not a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame like Staal, his underlying numbers have actually been better as of late, and he has performed very well in his time in Calgary.
Where would Derek Ryan fit?
There are multiple teams that could use Ryan’s services for the playoffs, but the fit is likely clearest with these three.
The best fit for Ryan is likely right up the QEII in Edmonton. The Oilers have gotten strong goaltending from Mike Smith, have shored up their defence with the acquisition of Tyson Barrie in the off-season, and have the two best forwards in the game right now in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. What they lack is depth down their roster. Per DailyFaceoff, this is what their bottom six looks like right now:
Oilers bottom six
Not great. Turris has just five points this season, while Khaira has just ten. Both are also negative possession players sitting at 41.9% and 43.8% CF% at 5v5 respectively (from Natural Stat Trick). The Oilers will be looking to make the most of this season, having seen a renaissance from Mike Smith and immense growth from their back end. Adding a strong bottom-six option will go a long way.
The Flames will be looking for a similar haul for Ryan as Buffalo got for Staal. However, the Oilers are without their second, third, and fifth-round picks for this season. They are also spent to the cap at this point, and would need the Flames to retain 50% of Ryan’s salary to make this work. They could send picks for 2022 to Calgary, but with how few picks they have this year, they will likely covet their picks to restock their draft cupboards.
The Oilers do have a number of intriguing prospects including forwards Kirill Maksimov, Raphael Lavoie, and Carter Savoie who could be deemed moveable. All three look good in their respective leagues, KHL, QMJHL, and NCAA respectively, and with the Oilers in win now mode, they may be willing to leverage some of their future for a run in the present.
What do you get when you add a lack of centre depth, a generally very strong team, and a general manager who is intimately familiar with the Calgary Flames? A perfect storm for a player like Derek Ryan. The Penguins have two of the best to have ever played the game in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and will be looking to give them one or two more runs at the cup before the team fully enters a rebuild.
Penguins bottom six
As good as the Penguins’ top six has been, their bottom six is a bit of a tire fire. Aside from Gaudreau and Zohorna (who has played just four games), the Pens bottom six is underwater in terms of shot attempts. Gaudreau and Jankowski have combined for just 11 points at 5v5, and the team is crying out for help in this department. Jankowski has the lowest expected goals for percentage on the team, and Flames fans know exactly what he is (and more importantly is not).
Derek Ryan would be an enormous improvement in the bottom six. Not only would he help provide stability, but he would also help younger guys like Zohorna (24), Lafferty (26), and Aston-Reese (26) to improve. The issues here are the same as with the Oilers. Pittsburgh has limited draft picks available right now and the Flames would need to retain salary. The Pens only have a first, second, fifth, and three seventh-round picks in the upcoming draft.
They do have the two linemates of Jakob Pelletier in their prospect pool: Samuel Poulin and Nathan Legare, but with a rebuild impending, the Pens will likely want to retain both players to help build out their core. The Pens do have all of their draft picks for 2022, but those will likely be worth more to them given they will be one year closer to rebuilding. It would take a bit more work to make a deal happen with the Penguins, but the fit is definitely there for Ryan.
The Panthers may sneakily be the Flames’ best trading partner for Ryan. They have a bunch of available cap room, having just moved Brett Connolly‘s contract, and have a number of picks for this year that could be sent out in exchange for a long run this year.
Panthers bottom six
Looking at their bottom six, it is hard to imagine this to be a group that the team is happy with. While they have acquired Lucas Wallmark who will likely fit into this group, their two Finnish centres, Lammikko and Luostarinen do not bring much to the table. Both are below 50% in all the major statistical categories and have combined for just ten points at 5v5 all season. Not great for the bottom two centres on a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have shown how valuable deadline acquisitions can be in the quest for the cup. Florida would stand to benefit emulating their northerly neighbours. It is hard to imagine the Panthers not making a few moves before Monday’s deadline, and shoring up the team’s bottom-six should be a big part of that. The Panthers are a young team, and adding a veteran presence would be a valuable addition both on and off the ice.
They also are a team that has no qualms about making a big deal or two, unafraid to swing and swing big, in order to make something happen. This may be the team that the Flames can work with to make something happen for Ryan. For a pick or two coming back this way, and Ryan with some (or ideally no) retained salary going the other way, this feels like a match made in heaven. The Panthers would be a better team with Ryan on the roster.
While there are still a few days before the trade deadline, Ryan is one of the Flames’ best options to move at the deadline. He is a strong two-way player who brings a mature voice to any dressing room, and even if the Flames need to retain salary, it is a smart option for them to let him make a run for the cup this summer and take a pick or prospect back in return.
Who do you think would be the best fit for Derek Ryan? Let us know in the comments below or on social media.