With the Stanley Cup in the rearview, the offseason is underway and every team in the NHL with the exception of the Tampa Bay Lightning is looking to improve its chances at hoisting the Cup next season, whenever that begins.
Free agency begins next week, and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, native Bobby Ryan, who was recently bought out by the Ottawa Senators, is a free agent. Naturally, he’s being linked to the Flyers, and Ryan is no stranger to that.
“I think any kid that has a hometown team grows up thinking they would play there some time," Ryan said Tuesday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "For a long time and so many years it felt like it might come to fruition.
"Really, the opportunity has never presented itself, I’m not sure if it will this time around, but if the Flyers were to make an offer or extend a camp invite, they’d move high on my list because of all the connections. For me, it’s one step at a time, just wait to see who makes an offer and go from there."
Ryan’s story is one that would make Hollywood’s finest directors blush. Ryan has had some ups and downs in the league after being drafted second overall by the Anaheim Ducks in 2005 behind Sidney Crosby. Ryan’s tenure in Anaheim was a productive one, featuring four straight seasons with 30 or more goals.
After spending parts of six seasons in Anaheim, Ryan then went to the Ottawa Senators, spending seven seasons with the Sens, highlighted by his 2016-17 playoff run in which he registered six goals and nine assists in 19 playoff games.
This past season, a myriad of issues caused Ryan to miss much of the season as he played in only 24 games. Now, the Jersey boy is a free agent for the first time.
"I’ve never had this opportunity, you know, to hopefully field offers, because when you’re a buyout person, you don’t know what’s going to come through for you," Ryan said. "But just the chance to field some offers and take a look around, and for once control where you’re going to play the next few years. My outlook is positive, I’m just going to sit down with my wife and see what makes the most sense for us to finish it up.”
In addition to Ryan’s difficult upbringing, which has been well-documented, this past season in November, Ryan checked himself into rehab for alcohol addiction. He returned to the Senators in February and played in eight games before the league’s pause because of COVID-19.
Ryan views free agency as sort of a clean slate.
“For me, it’s about finishing correctly; I’ve got a lot of the other things in my life settled now, and continuing to try to get better with my treatments," Ryan said. "I look at this as the chance to write the final few chapters of my career and do it correctly, and all that cliché stuff, but it’s never rang more true for me because of all the stuff I’ve been through in the last year.”
So would Ryan be a fit for the Flyers? For starters, general manager Chuck Fletcher knows Ryan well.
“I was in Anaheim when we drafted Bobby," Fletcher said Tuesday in a video interview with reporters. "I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a tremendous person.
“He’s been a very good hockey player in this league. I think his recent battles have been well-documented and clearly he’s worked hard to get himself to a better place. He deserves a tremendous amount of credit for that. He’s a wonderful person. Certainly wish him nothing but the best.”
Fletcher wouldn’t say whether Ryan would be a target in free agency. Ryan was asked if it came to fruition, would ending up with the Flyers be like a fairytale?
“Yeah, it would be very, very highly considered for sure, I’ve got some close personal relationships with Bobby Clarke and some of the other people in the organization that are very appealing to be around, day in and day out," Ryan said. "It would be very, very high on my list and hard to top, getting to spend some time with my dad at home and things like that, there are a lot of elements to making that very attracting, but for me first I have to see if they’re in play for me. I don’t know if that’s something they look at and want to do, I’ll let them decide and then I’ll make my decision after that.”