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New Jersey Devils Ink Michael Ryder to Two Year, $7 Million Deal

The New Jersey Devils signed their third winger on July 5, obtaining Michael Ryder's services for two years at $7 million. This reaction post goes into why he reminds me of Petr Sykora in 2011-12 and why it's a good deal anyway.

Michael Ryder, just after scoring one of his 16 goals from last season.
Michael Ryder, just after scoring one of his 16 goals from last season.

Lou wasn't done with just Ryane Clowe and Rostislav Olesz. Rich Chere reported this evening on Twitter that the New Jersey Devils signed Michael Ryder for a two-year contract worth $7 million. You can read Lou's quotes on the signing in this article by Chere at Ryder is a 33 year old right-handed shooting right winger who's had a career of being a fairly productive player. With all three signings, the Devils have definitely addressed their need at the wings.

Among all three, Ryder has been the most productive. In his NHL career, Ryder has scored 213 goals and earned 218 assists in 677 games. He's taken 1,666 shots, or an average of 2.46 shots per game. He was traded from Dallas to Montreal in 2013 and scored 16 goals, earned 19 assists and took 101 shots in 46 games. He's been fairly healthy throughout his career as he's never played less than 70 games in an 82 game season. Ryder has a career shooting percentage of 12.8%, so while it's not likely he's going to repeat his 16.6% shooting in 2011-12 or 15.8% from last season, I don't think he'll end up ice cold either. Ryder definitely has a good shot and good offensive instincts that should bolster the Devils both at even strength and on the power play.

That's all good, so here's some rain on that parade of positive points. For one, he doesn't have the most impressive numbers over at Behind the Net. Yes, he had some positive possession seasons and he was really only sheltered in 2013. However, running 4 to 5 above zero or below suggests to me it was the function of the team as opposed to what Ryder did. So I wouldn't expect him to drive the play. For another, he's 33. Unless a player is especially great, they usually decline as they get older. So while Ryder has had five seasons with scoring 25 or more goals, I wouldn't hold my breath on that happening again. Especially considering how high his shooting percentage was in the last two seasons.

More importantly, the fact he even made it to free agency at all raises a good question. Why didn't Montreal want to keep a guy who put up 35 points in 46 games? One would think that's absolutely someone you'd want to keep around. The answer may lie at Eyes on the Prize. Andrew Berkshire went in depth in reviewing Ryder's goals from last season in a three-post series. The first and second posts focus on the goals themselves, but the third post is an analysis of the player. Berkshire really drove home the point at the end:

Ryder isn't a very dangerous player off the rush, but with 82.4% of his goals coming off of zone plays, he is uniquely dangerous. Ryder's ability to create space for himself and get into scoring areas without being covered are the biggest factors in his goal scoring, even bigger than his world class wrist shot.

In total, 35.3% of Ryder's goals were on individual efforts, which is comparable to Desharnais last season. When parsing this data, I don't believe that Ryder is done as a goal scorer in the NHL, even though he may never score 30 goals again in his career.

At the same time, I think it's easy to see why Bergevin isn't interested in bringing Ryder back. Defensively Ryder brings little to no value, possibly even negative value. He can make plays at times, but his main talent is scoring goals. If your main talent is scoring goals, ideally you should be able to make it happen on your own a little more often. Ryder is a complementary player at his core, one that is likely fairly easy to replace or upgrade upon.

Doesn't do much defensively, has good offensive tools but is only useful if he's scoring, very good wrist shot, and a complementary player. Wait a minute, I know this player! It's Petr Sykora from 2011-12! Except younger and not Czech!

While I certainly understand why Montreal may not want Ryder, I'm actually fine with the Devils picking up Ryder. We've seen a winger act as a secondary scorer in the top six who's not good on defense just two seasons ago and it worked out pretty well. Granted, luck helped but he wasn't an anchor until late in the season and the playoffs. While plenty of credit goes to Zubrus and Elias for that, I do think the Devils are still a strong enough team on defense and in possession to cover for Ryder's deficiencies. As long as Ryder can make the power play more dynamic and doesn't hesitate to shoot the puck in general, I think he'll help out the Devils quite nicely. I agree with Berkshire that I don't think he'll get to 30 goals again, but 20+ is surely possible. I especially like the contract. It's not too expensive at a $3.5 million cap hit. If it really goes awry next season, then the Devils can either eat the second year in a buyout or just have Ryder play it out. I don't know if he was the best right wing available, but I think this was a good move all the same.

Now that you know my initial reaction, it's your turn to react. What do you think about the Devils getting Ryder at all? Will he help the Devils' offense whether it's at evens or on the power play? Do you like the contract terms he's signed to? What do you expect from Ryder in 2013-14? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Ryder or this signing in the comments. And don't forget to vote in the poll. Thanks for reading.