Detroit — For now, veteran forward Bobby Ryan isn’t on the Red Wings’ roster.
But it’s fair to wonder if that could change in the near future.
The Wings released the popular Ryan from his professional tryout Monday morning while getting down to the 23-man opening night roster.
Ryan had two goals and two assists in six games during the exhibition season, after going unsigned over the summer. He arrived at the Wings’ training camp on a hope he could play his way onto the roster.
He almost did.
But the play of rookie Lucas Raymond, plus a roster squeeze among the forwards, kept Ryan out of the mix.
“I wish Bobby a ton of luck going forward; he’s a great person and player, but that’s the decision we made,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I hope he did (earn an NHL contract somewhere). He is a real good person and hockey player. It was a tough call. They’re all tough decisions, but I like it when you get forced into some tough decisions.”
Ryan, 34, had seven goals and seven assists (14 points) with the Wings last season before triceps surgery ended his season.
Along with his still dangerous right-hand shot — and the Wings are lacking in righty shots — there’s Ryan’s presence and demeanor in the locker room, which would serve any team well, especially a growing, younger roster like the Wings’.
In a statement, general manager Steve Yzerman left open the possibility of the Wings and Ryan reuniting in the future.
“We felt Bobby had a good preseason for us, but due to roster limitations, we aren’t able to offer him a contract at this time,” Yzerman said. “We will continue to evaluate whether there is an opportunity for Bobby in Detroit as the 2021-22 season begins.”
Wings captain Dylan Larkin talked about Ryan’s popularity on the team.
“He’s a great pro,” Larkin said. “He came in on late notice with a PTO and played great. I wish Bobby all the best. He’s been a great teammate, a great friend. He’s got a great story with how he’s battled adversity and I have a lot of respect for him.”
Depth on defense
This will be Blashill’s seventh season coaching the Wings, but this particular roster might be his deepest overall.
Particularly on defense, where seven of the eight defensemen on the roster are proven NHL players, and the eighth — Moritz Seider — is considered one of the game’s brightest prospects.
Blashill feels that will create competition for playing time, and will be a challenge for those players not in the lineup.
“For sure we have the most depth on defense that we’ve had, probably, since I’ve been here,” Blashill said. “There’s going to be some good players who will be sitting out and they’re going to have to find a way to keep their heads above water and not let the mental strain, or lose confidence, or not play good, because it’s going to be real competitive back there.”
Larkin remembered his first season with the Wings, in 2015, and at the age of 19, not being sure if he had made the opening night roster.
Larkin went to sleep not knowing if he’d made the team — he did get a good night sleep, though, he said — and texted former teammate Luke Glendening asking what time practice was, or whether even to show up at all.
“They didn’t say anything to me,” Larkin said. “Luckily I showed up. It was a good day.”
Larkin has been impressed with new linemate Lucas Raymond, also 19, who Monday made the Wings’ roster.
“Right away, we knew he was a special player,” Larkin said. “He thinks the game, has great hands, can skate. He always looks like a good player a smart player, and he plays on a different level, and it just depends for him if he can keep it going.”
Along with decisions on Ryan, the Wings made several other moves to get down to 23 players.
The Wings assigned forwards Joe Veleno, Riley Barber and Taro Hirose to Grand Rapids Griffins, and designated forward Kyle Criscuolo and defenseman Seth Barton as injured non-roster, and officially placed Jakub Vrana (shoulder surgery) on injured reserve.