Bob Gainey got off to an early start this summer by re signing impending unrestricted free agent Andrei Markov and then followed that up with retaining all three of Mike Komisarek, Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec for two years. The Canadiens also attempted to bring in a big name free agent but where passed over by the likes of Ryan Smyth (Colorado), Daniel Briere (Philadelphia) and Scott Gomez (Rangers) signed unrestricted free agents Bryan Smolinski (1 year) and Tom Kostopoulos (2 year).Yesterday Josh Gorges who was acquired with the Sharks 1st round draft choice (Max Pacioretty) for Craig Rivet accepted the Canadiens qualifying offer leaving you…. guessed it Michael Ryder as the only roster player from last season for the Canadiens to sign.
Last year, just as he has done this year Michael Ryder filed for arbitration, but in the 11th hour Ryder agreed to a one year deal worth 2.2 million dollars with the Canadiens. Ryder earned his money recording his second consecutive 30 goal season including a hat trick the Canadiens one and only last year in the most pressure cooked final regular season game on the road in Toronto. Ryder also recorded 28 assists but was tied at 4th with the leagues worst +/- among forwards.
There are two ways to dissect a player who files for arbitration. The first being that the player is greedy and unwilling to work out a deal beneficial to both sides but as this season has shown money is not the only important factor for players, term also seems to be important and should a player actually follow through with arbitration they can only be rewarded a one year deal which offers no long term security which usually acts as a deterrent. Another item to consider when judging a player who is headed for arbitration is the fact that by filing they are not allowed to sign offer sheets from other teams ala Thomas Vanek with the Edmonton Oilers a few weeks ago. By filing for arbitration Ryder is in no uncertain terms telling the Canadiens organization that he wants to be a Habs. Michael Ryder’s arbitration hearing is set for July 30th so with a little less than two weeks before that date Gainey, Ryder and his agent have some time to complete a deal. Arbitration can be a nasty creature as in its essence the player is looking for a one year deal that is “fair market value” while the team is looking for the cheapest contract possible. During the hearing the player will point out the positives and use examples of similar players to sway the judge while the team will look to cut up the player and point out his flaws to drive his price down.
Should Ryder sign for only one year he would be set to become a unrestricted free agent at seasons end which could be both good and bad for the Canadiens. Ryder could have a career year and be offered some very large deals from other teams which the Canadiens may be unable or unwilling to match. If Ryder is having such a season and the Canadiens are looking to get some high value at the trading deadline he could bring in an excellent return.
Why has a deal not been reached you may ask? Who knows, but if I were to hazard a guess I would believe it to be more of Gainey not wanting a long term deal rather then Ryder being stubborn. Gainey must fear Ryder becoming complacent in a long term deal and must believe if each year is a contract year for Ryder he will work that much harder and provide the most bang for the buck. Ryder has never had the chance to become complacent in his young pro career as an 8th round draft choice (216th overall) of the Canadiens he has had to work very hard to get where he is today. After being drafted Ryder played two more season’s with Hull of the QMJHL and recorded a 44 and a 50 goal season. But before he would play his first game with the Canadiens he would play for four teams over two season’s in both the ECHL and AHL.
Ryder has been a streaky player in his career and last year was no different. From October 28th to November 28th a span of 14 games he had just one goal, and again between January 13th and February 17th a span of 16 games he had just two goals. On the other hand Ryder scored 6 goals in 7 games between February 18th and March 2nd and also scored 7 goals in the final 8 games of the season.
Ryder however streaky does bring a lot to the Canadiens. He is the only top six forward with a right handed shot, he tied for 4th in the NHL last season in power play goals and re found his physical game last season. Ryder also started killing penalty’s when Chris Higgins was injured and scored two short handed goals. Ryder in his 3 NHL seasons has missed just two games. Last but not least Ryder likes to shoot the puck he was the only Canadiens forward to break the 200 shot barrier.