Now that the Stanley Cup Final is over, it’s time to take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs heading into the draft and free agency, with one forward potentially being ideal for the team.
Derek Ryan is a 31-year-old, right-handed centre who has played just three seasons in the NHL, having taken a long route to reach the big league – and he could be just what the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking for.
In each season with the Hurricanes, he has improved as a player and has become a very good option on the fourth line for a team in need of some solid defensive play.
Ryan has also been a very solid face-off taker, winning 56.1 percent of his face-offs since entering the league – averaging around 11 face-offs a game.
Last season was the best of his NHL career, sporting career-highs in games played (80), goals (15) and assists (23), while also averaging over 15 minutes of ice time per contest.
All of these statistics place him above Tomas Plekanec, a player the Maple Leafs actively traded for ahead of the deadline this past season.
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According to his HERO Chart, Ryan has respectable statistics as a fourth line centre, and his shot suppression is something that would be very valuable to a Toronto Maple Leafs team in need of some support on the defensive side of the game.
His performances this season have not gone unnoticed either, with the 31-year-old earning international recognition with a place in the USA team that earned a bronze medal in this year’s World Championships.
But what he offers the team cannot be understated, and his possession and defensive traits would give the Leafs a big upgrade on the fourth line – something that has been needed after the instability they have had this past season with Plekanec and Dominic Moore.
Another positive for Ryan is that he’s likely to come fairly cheaply.
His current contract with the Hurricanes sees him paid just $1.4 million – less than half of what Plekanec’s cap hit was for the Leafs after he joined the team.
A cheap one or two-year deal for Ryan to serve as the team’s fourth line centre could be a shrewd piece of business for Kyle Dubas, who will be aware of keeping cap space open for potentially expensive contract negotiations.
But what do Toronto Maple Leafs fans think? Could Ryan be a decent pick-up for the team? Who else would you like the team to target?