The ripple effect from the summer of 2007 continues to wash ashore in Anaheim. Bobby Ryan, a top prospect for the Ducks, was sent to the minors Friday, a painful solution to the team's lingering salary-cap woes.
"He was clearly in the hunt to make our team," said Ducks General Manager Brian Burke said. "It's definitely cap-related." Instead of taking the ice Friday night, when the Ducks defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 4-1, in an exhibition game at the Honda Center, the 21-year-old forward was preparing to join the Iowa Chops of the American Hockey League.
Ryan's premature departure is another price the Ducks are paying for Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer, who sat out much of last season while mulling retirement after the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007. Niedermayer returned in December, Selanne not until February, and while waiting for them to make up their minds, Burke was forced to hit the free-agent market and sign replacements Todd Bertuzzi and Mathieu Schneider.
The situation was further complicated when Selanne and Niedermayer decided to return this season. With Bertuzzi and Schneider still under contract, the Ducks faced a financial conundrum.
"That's where all our cap problems begin," Burke said. "I don't fault either [Selanne or Niedermayer]. I hope to God I have problems like this again."
The Ducks traded Schneider and fellow defenseman Sean O'Donnell to create cap space to re-sign Selanne, the team's all-time leading scorer. But despite the trades, they were still slightly above the league-mandated $56.7-million cap.
Ryan, the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, who scored two goals last week in the Ducks' exhibition opener, was vulnerable because he had a relatively large contract that would have paid a base salary of $821,700 plus $925,000 in performance bonuses, a salary-cap hit of just under $1.75 million. As a player who's under a two-way contract, he will make considerably less in the minors.
Burke said he promised Ryan he would bring him back up if he "dominates" at the minor league level. If not, he said he'd be willing to trade Ryan to another team.
As the holdout of Kings forward Patrick O'Sullivan stretches into another week, another rookie is leaping at the chance to fill his role. Teddy Purcell is set to skate on the first line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, the team's top two goal scorers last season, as the Kings play at Phoenix tonight and face San Jose in Salt Lake City on Sunday.
"Good players need to play with good players," said Kings Coach Terry Murray. "That's going to give him the best opportunity to show us how it's going to fit for him."
Selanne had three goals and Niedermayer had three assists in Friday's game.