RALEIGH The Carolina Hurricanes kept one of their own less than a week before the opening of free agency, re-signing pending unrestricted free agent Derek Ryan to a one-year, $1.45 million contract on Monday.
Ryan had 11 goals and 18 assists in 67 games last season, establishing himself as a full-time NHLer playing in Carolina’s bottom six.
“Derek proved he belonged in the NHL last season,” Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said in a press release. “He brings skill and versatility to our lineup and sets an example for our younger players with his character and determination off the ice.”
The 30-year-old Ryan’s long path to the NHL is well-documented. After four years in the Western Hockey League followed by four more playing Canadian university hockey, Ryan headed overseas, playing professionally in Austria for three years. He then played a season in the Swedish Hockey League, earning MVP honors after leading the league in points in 2014-15.
His dominance in the Swedish league opened the door for his return to North America, and he signed a two-way deal with the Hurricanes. He played six games with Carolina at the end of the 2015-16 season, reuniting with coach Bill Peters his WHL coach with the Spokane Chiefs. Ryan, undersized at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, earned an early-season call-up last year and stuck, spending time on both Carolina’s power play and penalty kill.
“He’s going to get overpowered, he’s going to get outmuscled, but it’s never going to be for a lack of being in the right position or a lack of want or fight,” Peters said of Ryan back in December. “He’s going to compete, he’s going to do everything right. … He’s not scared. He loves the game. He’s a hockey player, that’s what he does.”
Ryan’s winding path to the NHL led to him being a finalist for the Bill Masterton Trophy, which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey. Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson won the trophy at last week’s NHL Awards.
Qualifying offers on restricted free agents are due Monday at 5 p.m., and the Hurricanes have several players they need to make decisions on. The first of those came to terms shortly after the announcement of the Ryan re-signing when defenseman Trevor Carrick agreed to a one-year, two-way deal. The contract would pay him $670,000 in the NHL or $77,500 in the AHL.
Carolina’s other RFAs are forwards Brock McGinn, Andrej Nestrasil and Phil Di Giuseppe, AHL defenseman Jake Chelios, and goaltending prospect Daniel Altshuller. Qualifying offers for all of Carolina’s RFAs would be one-year, two-way offers at 110 percent of their current contract. The team can also negotiate a new deal with each player outside of the qualifying offer. Players not tendered a qualifying offer and not signed to a new contract by July 1 would become unrestricted free agents and be free to sign with any team.