DETROIT - Bobby Ryan was looking for a fresh start and a place to revive his career after it was stunted in part by alcohol issues.
Ryan was sold on that happening with the Detroit Red Wings.
A long conversation with general manager Steve Yzerman sealed the deal even though it was the first discussion Ryan had with suitors during NHL free agency.
“It was a 45-minute call that left me with the feeling that it was the right fit without knowing else what else was out there,” Ryan said Friday after agreeing to a $1 million, one-year contract with the Red Wings.
Detroit had the NHL's worst team last season, but Yzerman told Ryan the team would be better and he could be a big part of the turnaround by getting a lot of ice time to prove his once-promising career is not over.
The 33-year-old Ryan missed more than two months of last season after entering the NHL/NHLPA players assistance program in November, 2019. Upon his return to practice in February, he shared his story publicly in hopes of inspiring others facing similar challenges.
The Ottawa Senators placed him on waivers last month for the purpose of a buyout, making him available. He had five goals and eight points in 24 games for the Senators last season and won the Masterton Trophy, the NHL’s award for perseverance.
“What a whirlwind year," Ryan said.
He had two years left on his contract at a $7.25 million cap. Ryan, drafted No. 2 overall by Anaheim in 2005, has 254 goals and 301 assists with the Ducks and Senators.
A decade ago, Ryan ranked among the league's top scorers when he had 35 and 34 goals in consecutive years.
“I selfishly have dreams of getting back to the Bobby Ryan I was," he said.
DEFENSEMAN DOMINO EFFECT
While rival teams checked in on top free agent defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug, the Washington Capitals continued to remake their blue line by signing Justin Schultz to an $8 million, two-year contract.
The move came days after the team learned Michal Kempny would miss 6-8 months with a torn Achilles tendon and signed Brenden Dillon for $15.6 million over four years. New coach Peter Laviolette can now roll out a top four of Norris Trophy runner-up John Carlson, Dillon, Dmitry Orlov and Schultz in front of Ilya Samsonov and new goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
“We’ve got some flexibility now," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “I think we really like (Schultz’s) offensive potential, his ability to join the rush, ability to quarterback a power play. I think Peter’s teams activate defense aggressively, so we were trying to find a guy that fit that bill for him.”
Wayne Simmonds took less money from the Toronto Maple Leafs than the Montreal Canadiens offered so he could play in his hometown.
Simmonds signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal to bring some of what he called “functional toughness,” to the skilled team. The 32-year-old from the Scarborough, Ontario, neighborhood that has produced a lot of NHL talent called himself a proud Torontonian with deep roots there.
“I’m born and raised in the city of Toronto, so obviously I loved my upbringing here,” said Simmonds, who has a 16-month-old daughter. “It’s nice to have the thought that I know that I could raise my daughter in Toronto as well. So that obviously contributed to it.”
Simmonds isn’t the only one moving closer to home. Long Island native Anthony Bitetto signed with the New York Rangers, and Jon Merrill signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings, a team he rooted for growing up in Brighton, Michigan.