NHL 2012 Free Agency: Who Is the Better Fit for the Red Wings, Ryan or Nash?

PJ Sapienza@@pjsapiContributor IIIJuly 9, 2012

NHL 2012 Free Agency: Who Is the Better Fit for the Red Wings, Ryan or Nash?

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    The sting from Ryan Suter's and Zach Parise's rejection of the Detroit Red Wings is still hurting fans.  The team though is already looking ahead to their next options.

    While a defender is the most needed position right now, much focus has been on the trade market with Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash being the premiere names that are on the Red Wings' wish list.

    Which would be the better option?  Both are high scoring, two-way players who are in the prime of their careers.  They would each be tremendous addition to the team.

    To many people, Nash is the first choice—however Ryan would actually be the better option for the Red Wings.

    Nash is a great player.  He already has 289 goals in his nine year career, an average of 32.1 a season.  He has twice topped the 40 goal mark.  He has yet to top 100 points, but has played for a poor Columbus franchise that has not been able to put people around Nash who can help him. 

    His stats are impressive considering he is close to being a one man team.  One can’t help but wonder how much better he could be once surrounded by the talented Red Wings team.

    In Bobby Ryan, we see many similarities to Nash.  In his four full seasons, Ryan has average 32.7 goals a season.  He is consistent with a low of 31 and a high of 35.  While he has played around players such as Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne, his team also had trouble scoring goals.  Nash’s Blue Jackets ranked 26th while Ryan’s Ducks were only 23rd in goals scored last season.  Placing either of

    Being on the Red Wings' seventh ranked offense should boost their personal numbers as well as the teams.

    With all that said, here are the three reasons why Bobby Ryan would be the better choice for the Red Wings.


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    The NHL is no longer in the "spend as much as you can" mode.  With the salary cap, teams need to be wise in how they spend their money.

    Nash is still owed six years on his contract.  While that is a positive in that he would be locked in for the long term, he comes at a much higher cap hit.  While his actual pay will rise each year, he would be a $7.8 million cap hit to the team each season.

    With Ryan he only has three years left on his deal at a $5.1 million cap hit.  He would be in for a big pay day once that contract is up, but for at least the next two seasons, the Red Wings would have him at a discount rate.  At that time they would likely look to lock him up to a longer term deal, but even then he would be younger than Nash is now.

    Nash had one less goal and two more points than Ryan.  That does not seem worth an extra $2.7 million per season.  Add to that Ryan has better number in hits, block shots and plus/minus, it makes Ryan look like an even better value.

The Numbers

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    While both players are still young, Ryan does have the advantage of being three years younger than Nash.  At 28, Nash is fully into the prime of his career.  Ryan has been playing at a high level, but at 25, the best is still yet to come.

    There has been an alarming trend in Nash’s game.  As Sporting News pointed out, his shooting percentage has dropped every year since the 2008-09 season.

    Even worse he was the least accurate player to score 30 goals last season.  As a comparison Nash had 30 goals on 306 shots, a .098 percent mark.  Ryan, on the other hand, scored 31 times on 204 shots, a.152 percent.  More goals on over 100 fewer shots is not something to be ignored.  Over their careers, Ryan is 17 points better in shot percentage.

    Nash does have better special teams’ numbers.  However those have also been in decline as well. He scored 55 power play goals in first five seasons, yet only 28 in the past four.  Nash’s percentage of goals scored on the power play is better than Ryan’s however with most the game played at even strength it is better to have a player that excels in that area.

    The downturn in Nash’s numbers are cause for concern.  While he is still a great player, does this downward trend show that he is already hit his prime and his best years are behind him?  Could it be a case where he has just tired of carrying the load in Columbus and a change in scenery with more talented teammates help revive him? 

    With Ryan, you still have a player on the rise and these concerns are not there.  At this point, he not only is the better option but also the safer choice.

The Cost of a Trade

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    Perhaps the biggest difference in the two players is what the Red Wings will have to give up in order to acquire them.  Ryan will not come cheaply, but he will not command as much as Nash. 

    There are two reasons for this.  First, Nash appears to be the top focus of several teams.  Those old supply and demand rules come into play which allows the Blue Jackets to raise the price on him.

    The other reason is that Columbus is in the same division as the Red Wings.  They would be very leery of trading their star player to anyone, let alone to someone in their division.  In order to acquire him, the asking price for the Red Wings would be very high. 

    Speculation would be that Brendan Smith and Valtteri Filppula would certainly be gone as well as at least three high level prospects in a trade for Nash.  Smith’s future is so bright that unless he is traded for an already established high level defender (can you say Shea Weber,) then he should be considered untouchable.

    In order to acquire Ryan, the cost would not be nearly as high.  It would likely still take Filppula and then perhaps one or two good prospects.  Such a move would be less of a hit for the future of the team.  GM Ken Holland has always done a good job at balancing the needs of the team right now versus the long term health of the organization.  This is why a trade for Ryan would make more sense.

    His more favorable contract, lower trade cost and better numbers make him the better choice over Rick Nash.  His high scoring, hard hitting style of play would make an instant impact on the team.

    PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports.

    You can follow him on twiitter

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