Bobby Ryan looking forward to future after surgery, hopes to stay with Red Wings

Detroit News

Detroit — The thought did cross Bobby Ryan’s mind.

After Ryan underwent triceps surgery three weeks ago, and the unknown of what was going to happen afterward and how much it was going to take to return, the idea of retiring popped into his head.

But not anymore.

“There were a couple of days it was real hard when I knew I had to have surgery and how long it was going to be,” Ryan said. “I didn’t know if I had it in me. But they were waning moments and I’m glad they passed.

“It’s been a good response. Right now I’m already planning for next year, and I’m in here with trainers and (devising) plans to move forward.”

So Ryan, 34, and in his 14th NHL season, is intent on returning next year.

But will it be with the Red Wings? Or will the unrestricted free agent sign with someone else?

Ryan signed a one-year contract worth $1 million in the opening minutes of free agency in October. He supplied some needed offense and was a veteran presence in the locker room.

In 33 games, Ryan had seven goals and seven assists.

General manager Steve Yzerman said at the completion of the trade deadline last month that he’d be interested in retaining some of his UFAs.

Ryan could be a fit — and there’s no doubt Ryan would like to return.

“I want to play hockey next year, (and) I hope it’s Detroit,” Ryan said. “I haven’t had those conversations yet. I expect they’re going to come. It’s been an incredible place to play. I feel like I got robbed of the true and normal experience of it (because of the pandemic).

“I hope it gets back to normal next year, and if I’m part of the plan I’d love to be here.”

Ryan’s entrance into the lineup was memorable, and historic, scoring four goals in his first three games with the Wings — the first player to do so with the organization.

But Ryan only scored three goals in his last 30 games, and only had one point in his final nine games. With some more young players possibly earning roster spots coupled with the Wings having options on their present roster and in free agency, there simply may not be room for Ryan.

Still, Ryan’s veteran pedigree, and willingness to accept a mentor role, could be important to have around a young team.

“Guys that have been through serious ups and downs like I have can always be a sounding board for young guys,” Ryan said. “When I have my meetings with Steve and the brass, I hope we talk about that influence as much as the on-ice stuff because I think it’s important.

“I hope I left an impression on some of the young guys I worked with and talked to a lot.”

Coach Jeff Blashill was appreciative of Ryan’s influence in the locker room and the impact Ryan had.

“Bobby has a lot of respect from players around the league because of the level of player he’s been, what he’s accomplished in his career,” Blashill said. “When you meet him, you respect him even more because of the person he is, a genuine person. He cares about the people he’s around, and he cares about our hockey team growing.

“What those guys have is they have perspective of a lot of different experiences and when you’re young, you just don’t have those perspective. Somebody like Bobby, who is that high of a pick, who’s been at the top in terms of a go-to offensive top line guy, who’s also been a guy who’s sat out of the lineup, he can help guys at different stages in their careers. Those are critical pieces to the growth of young players.

“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.”

Final games

The games Friday and Saturday in Columbus will end the regular season for both teams.

It’s been a particularly strange week for the Wings, who had back-to-back games last weekend and then have had four consecutive days of no games before playing in Columbus.

It’s likely the NHL built the time off into the schedule in case the Wings had any games postponed because of the pandemic. But the Wings were fortunate to have no games affected this season.

Despite the time off, and the fact these two games in Columbus don’t have any bearings toward the playoffs, Blashill expects the Wings to compete hard.

“(Thursday’s practice) was spirited and focused and was a very good effort,” Blashill said. “It could have been a practice in the middle of the season. I didn’t get the sense at all of our guys being checked out or that school was over. They all recognize these games are special, any game you get to play in the NHL.”

After the way last season ended prematurely and unexpectedly, one of Blashill’s key messages this season has been to value every day and game in the NHL.

This weekend’s contests in Columbus are a perfect example.

“You never know what tomorrow brings, and there’s no greater lesson than last season,” Blashill said. “I want to make sure we all recognize we have two NHL games ahead of us and those matter, and make the most of these games.”

Red Wings at Blue Jackets

► Faceoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

► TV/radio: BSD-plus/WWJ 950

► Outlook: The Red Wings (18-27-9) and Columbus (17-25-12) play the first of two games to close out the season. …The Wings lead the season series 3-2-1.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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