Ryan Jones: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Edmonton Oilers - Ryan Jones“Should I stay or should I go?”

That’s the question Chatham’s Ryan Jones will begin asking himself this week after he and his injury riddled Edmonton Oilers ended their 2010-11 season, losing 4-3 in overtime to the Colorado Avalanche on April 10.

On July 1, Ryan becomes an unrestricted free agent (UFA).  On that day he will be able to test the NHL waters to see if any of the other 29 teams are interested in his services for next season.

Ryan certainly could get some looks.  He had a great season in his first full NHL season (he played in 81 of 82 games) with the Oilers.  He scored a career high 18 goals and assisted on seven others. He also had 149 hits, second highest on the team. 

His teammates appreciated his hard work and recently chose him as their nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy awarded annually to the play who best demonstrates perserverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game.

Ryan recently told the Edmonton Journal that “the biggest thing I’m dealing with is that I’m smart enough to know I’m not going to play until I’m 50 and I want some security.  Because I’ve had a good year, it would be nice to get some security out of this.”

Ryan currently makes $975,000.  The question now becomes: what kind of a raise should he receive for next season. The answer isn’t that easy in the salary cap era.  As we have seen, team general managers have had to become frugal with the purse strings. We’ve seen it with how much money they’re willing to pay today for goalies.  The same is now becoming the case with third and fourth line players like Ryan. 

Edmonton certainly is well below the salary cap, but given that they likely will end up with the No. 1 draft pick this year, there’s at least $2 million in salary cap dollars that will be spent on the entry-level contract of the top pick.  The other reality Ryan needs to keep in mind are the other Oilers who are UFAs this year. Alexandre Giroux, Steve MacIntyre, and Jason Strudwick all currently make less than Ryan. 

Then, there’s the other UFAs who are available on July 1.  Here are four other left wingers who currently make less than Ryan and might make nice additions to the Oilers lineup: Ville Leino, Philadelphia Flyers ($800,000); Drew Miller, Detroit Red Wings ($650,000); Tanner Glass, Vancouver Canucks ($625,000); Mathieu Darche, Montreal Canadiens ($500,000); and Jeff Tambellini, Vancouver Canucks ($500,000).

So, what’s a good raise? I will defer to the Edmonton fans who responded to the Journal story about Ryan’s pending contract negotiations. They say he deserves between $1.2 and $1.5 million a year.

David Reddick is the author of www.ckhockeyheroes.com

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