Bobby Ryan still fits into the Detroit Red Wings rebuild. Here’s how

Detroit Free Press

Bobby Ryan wants to be a part of the Detroit Red Wings’ future, and not just because he feels robbed in the present.

Ryan enters the offseason determined to rehabilitate his right triceps, which required season-ending surgery shortly after he played his last game March 28. At 34, Ryan is in the twilight of his career, but he isn’t ready for retirement.

“The thing I do know right now is I want to play hockey next year,” Ryan said Wednesday. “My immediate focus is to try to get ready to do that. You hope it’s Detroit. I’d certainly be open to it.

“I can’t reiterate how many times I’ve said it — it’s just an incredible place to play.”

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General manager Steve Yzerman signed Ryan last October in a move that projected to be smart for both sides: The Wings got a former 30-goal scorer for one year at $1 million, and Ryan, 34, got a chance to try to reboot his career.

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The reboot lasted 33 games.

“I feel like I got kind of robbed of the true and whole experience,” Ryan said. “If I’m part of the plans, I’d love to be here.”

Bringing Ryan back on the same terms is still a no-risk, potentially high-reward move. Ryan recorded seven goals and seven assists, and his value exceeded that which he delivered in games. A former first-round pick, Ryan embraced serving as a mentor, especially to Filip Zadina and Michael Rasmussen, recent first-round picks who figure in the rebuild. Ryan has been through a bit of everything, from being a 30-goal scorer early in his career with the Anaheim Ducks to getting traded to getting treatment for substance abuse to trying to rebuild his career.

“I think there will always be a place for that,” he said. “Guys that have been through it age-wise and through some serious ups-and-downs like I have, can always be a sounding board for young guys. When I have my meetings with the brass and and Steve, I hope that we talk about that influence as much as the on-ice stuff. I hope I left some kind of impression on Ras and Z, that if they take anything from playing with me, some kind of wisdom, that an old savvy Western Conference slug kind of imparted on them.”

Ryan was an immediate fit with the Wings, something coach Jeff Blashill credits to what a genuine guy Ryan is.

“He cares about helping people, he cares about our hockey team growing,” Blashill said. “Any time you’re trying to develop young people, they have to have great role models. They have to have great papa bears that can help them work their way through the different challenges that they face in their career. People that they respect. Coaches are one thing. It’s a whole different thing when you can get that in your locker room.

“Someone like Bobby, who has been at the top, who also has been a guy who has been a healthy scratch. He can help guys at different stages of their career. Those are critical pieces to the growth of young players.”

As Blashill has enjoyed having Ryan around, Ryan has enjoyed playing under Blashill.

“He’s got a great pulse for the room — when it needs a charge, when it doesn’t, when to step back and let the younger guys take over vocally,” Ryan said. “You can’t deny the strides that some of the young guys made this year – you look at how well Ras is playing and down the stretch, Z. There’s a lot of guys that took a lot of great steps, and that’s him putting guys in positions to succeed and them running with it. I would certainly say Blash has done a good job this year.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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