By Allan Muir
There’s no replacing Daniel Alfredsson, either on the ice or in the hearts of Ottawa’s devoted fans.
But after losing the face of the franchise in a surprise free agency defection to Detroit, Senators GM Bryan Murray understood that he couldn’t be paralyzed by that sense of futility.
So he took a bold step forward into that Alfie-less future, trading Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a 2014 first rounder to the Anaheim Ducks for Bobby Ryan.
Surprisingly, Murray revealed in an afternoon press conference he’d been in discussions to acquire Ryan earlier in the week and had made Alfredsson aware of the potential to add the young star to the Ottawa roster. It wasn’t enough to convince the captain to stay.
When Alfredsson chose to move on, Murray sweetened his offer to Anaheim GM Bob Murray, upping the pick from a second to a first. That sealed the deal that ended a roller coaster day for Ottawa fans on a high, and makes the Senators a much more dangerous team moving forward.
The 26-year-old Ryan is the first true sniper the team’s employed since the heyday of Dany Heatley. A natural shooter with the ability to score from anywhere in the zone, he’d run up a streak of four consecutive years scoring at least 30 goals before it was snapped by the lockout-shortened season. For a team whose 27th-ranked offense was in dire need of a legitimate scorer, he is a huge get.
Ryan’s a player who’s been in the middle of trade rumors for a couple of years, mainly because he was a high-priced third wheel with the Ducks. But he was also frustrated by his role on the team and felt he’d plateaued there. With Ottawa, it’s easy to imagine him playing consistent first line minutes alongside a premier playmaker like Jason Spezza and topping 40 goals for the first time in his career.
Ryan has just two years left on a deal that pays him $5.1 million annually, a manageable sum for the Sens and an even more manageable term. If things don’t work out, they’re not married to him. If they do, well, they have two years to convince him that Ottawa is the place to settle down and finish off his career.
As savvy as this move was, it can’t be Murray’s last strike. He still needs to replace Silfverberg in the lineup and that player has to bring some high-end offensive touch of his own. Murray has a deep pool of prospects to dangle, so expect another significant deal.
From Anaheim’s perspective, this was a deal that them $4.66 million in salary cap relief with massive extensions for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry kicking in next season. That’s no small consideration.
At the same time, the first rounder and two birds in hand create an instant upgrade to a prospect pool that was shy of talent on the wings.
Silfverberg, taken 39th overall in 2009, is ready to step directly into the lineup after scoring 10 goals and 19 points during his rookie season with the Sens. He’s a very smart, two-way forward who can line up on both wings and play a gritty if not overly physical game. He has terrific instincts in the offensive zone, and projects as a 25-30 goal scorer on the second line…but if he happens to have chemistry with Getzlaf and Perry, that high-end estimate is subject to revision.
Noesen, who was selected 21st overall in 2011, is a speedy, physical winger who slots in as a high-end third liner, but could develop into a second liner if his offensive game clicks in. He’s been better than a point-per-game player in each of his three OHL seasons with the Plymouth Whalers, but there are questions about whether that will translate at the next level.
Looks like a good deal for both sides, but Ottawa got the only sure thing in the swap. So call the Senators the winner.
They needed a win today.