The start of NHL free agency was a miserable one for Ottawa Senators fans as longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson chose to leave the franchise after 18 years to pursue a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings.
Many Senators fans were angry with the captain's departure, but their spirits were brightened later in the afternoon when the team announced that it had acquired young star Bobby Ryan from the Anaheim Ducks.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun was the first to report the deal, also noting that Ryan is a player who Ottawa has wanted for a few months.
Losing a captain and the face of a franchise is always a difficult situation for a team, but the addition of Ryan will make the Senators a younger, deeper and more skilled team.
Over the last few years, mainly through the draft, Ottawa has amassed a nice collection of young players with impressive offense talent. It's a group that will continue to build on the team's success from the past two seasons, which includes two playoff appearances.
|Bobby Ryan||Right Wing||26|
|Cory Conacher||Left Wing||23|
Replacing Alfredsson's spot at right wing on the first line with Ryan is a great move by the Senators as they continue a youth movement that will take the team into a bright future.
Here's what the Senators' four lines could look like next season:
Even though he's only 26 years old, Ryan has 26 games of playoff experience in his six-year career with the Ducks. He was a first-line winger for most of his time in Anaheim, and that is the kind of role he can be expected to fill in the Senators offense, which needed some additional depth and skill after finishing 27th in goals scored last year.
Ryan came into the shortened 2013 season with four straight years of 30 or more goals scored. He adds much-needed strength, size and skill to the Senators' top line as a top-tier power forward. The New Jersey native protects the puck well, makes plays with his solid vision and impressive passing skills and also fights for loose pucks in the dirty areas.
Power forwards are hard to find, especially those who are young and already have a proven record of success at the NHL level. In a division that includes several teams that play a physical style of hockey, the Senators needed to add some size in the offseason, which this trade addresses.
Ryan and first-line center Jason Spezza should quickly form a fantastic duo when the Senators open training camp in the fall.
Spezza is an elite offensive player with 30-plus assists in eight of his last nine seasons and will benefit from being able to create quality scoring chances for a player of Ryan's caliber. The 30-year-old All-Star hasn't played alongside a winger with the goal-scoring ability that Ryan brings to the ice since Dany Heatley played for Ottawa five years ago.
The team's power play, which finished 20th last season with a 15.9 percent success rate, will also be a more potent group with the addition of Ryan, who has scored 36 power-play goals in his career.
Despite the success Ryan achieved in Anaheim, he was always the third star behind Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
As a member of the Senators, the 26-year-old can step into the spotlight and play a leading role on one of the NHL's youngest teams, a group that's poised to become a contender in the Eastern Conference over the next few years.
The next step for Senators general manager Bryan Murray is to re-sign Ryan. He has just two more years left on his current contract that includes a team-friendly $5.1 million salary cap hit, per CapGeek.
Ryan will lead Ottawa's youth movement at forward over the next two seasons, but to ensure he remains a cornerstone of the franchise long term, a contract extension should be a top priority for the club moving forward.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft.