LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Left-winger Bobby Ryan agreed to a new five-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, keeping the high-scoring forward with the club through 2014-15.
The US$25.5-million deal highlights a busy year for Ryan, who scored a career-high 61 points for the Ducks last season, just his second full year in the NHL. The 23-year-old also won a silver medal with the U.S. national team at the Vancouver Olympics.
As a restricted free agent, Ryan spent an uncomfortable summer waiting for his representatives to hammer out a deal with the Ducks, who faced an unusual hurdle in negotiations: Anaheim general manager Bob Murray wanted to sign Ryan to a longer deal than Ryan initially sought. The Ducks intended to lock in the talented young scorer beyond the current contract lengths of fellow top-line forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
"They would like me to hold down the fort in case one of those guys goes elsewhere," Ryan said. "The biggest thing for me was trying to figure out where those guys were going to be moving in three years. After speaking with those guys, they are both committed to this team and organization. I felt a lot better doing a five-year deal."
Ryan will have a smaller average salary than the $5.325 million apiece made by Getzlaf and Perry, two Canadian Olympians with identical contracts and seniority over Ryan. Those numbers didn't bother Ryan, who led the Ducks with 35 goals last season, second among U.S.-born players to New Jersey's Zach Parise.
"I have hitched on their wagon, and I enjoy it," Ryan said.
But the deal still required several months of negotiations and posturing while Ryan got comfortable with longer terms. Murray became worried Ryan would receive a front-loaded offer sheet that the Ducks couldn't match, but Ryan said he wouldn't have considered such an offer.
"For something that was supposed to be done by July 1, it was a long summer," Ryan said. "It made for a trying summer. You get phone calls from time to time, and then everybody takes a month off between those calls. I felt good about the fact that Bob made it clear he wasn't going to trade me. I made it clear I wasn't seeking trades or offer sheets. It was just more circumstance between the two sides trying to come to an agreement together."
The deal puts the Ducks' entire core under contract for at least the next three seasons. Getzlaf and Perry already are locked into deals through 2013, while Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller and veteran defencemen Lubomir Visnovsky and newcomer Toni Lydman also are signed through the next three campaigns.
"Bobby didn't want to leave," Murray said. "Our young players want to play in Anaheim. That's fortunate for us that they do. They're all young guys, they like the fans here, and they want to stay. ... This is another step for Bobby. He's a big part of this hockey team, and I expect him to take that next step."
Anaheim missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004, and then lost captain Scott Niedermayer to retirement this summer. Murray hopes to rebuild on the strength of his talented young players and another season from Teemu Selanne, who postponed retirement for at least another year.
"The last few years have been rocky," Murray said of the Ducks' transition after their 2007 Stanley Cup championship. "Hopefully we get back some stability this season."
The Ducks won't begin training camp with forward Joffrey Lupul, who is still on antibiotics for a blood infection. Lupul hasn't played since last December, when he had two surgeries on his back that eventually revealed the infection.
"It's no fun when you're an athlete and you just keep hitting bumps in the road," Murray said. "We're not going to push. We're going to do it the right way for his sake."