Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - After seeing the former face of their franchise bolt for a better situation last summer, the Ottawa Senators had to be pleased with the words spoken by forward Bobby Ryan on Thursday.
Addressing the media for the first time since undergoing surgery for a sports hernia last Thursday, Ryan spoke about playing through the injury, which he originally suffered back in November, and his future with a Senators club that dealt a pair of players and a first-round draft pick to acquire the services of the 27-year-old from the Anaheim Ducks back in July 5.
The trade became official the same day Daniel Alfredsson ended his 17-season tenure with the Senators by signing as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings.
Hockey, like any sport, is a business, and a lot of players like to see their value on an open market. Next season will be the final one of Ryan's current five-year, $25.5 million contract, but he admitted he can see his future in Ottawa.
"Yeah, absolutely. I said it in Anaheim that when you get drafted by an organization or traded to an organization you want to reward that organization, you want to be part of that organization for a long deal and you want to take that team to new heights to be part of something special," Ryan said during a press conference transcribed on Ottawa's official website.
"The organization is a first class organization, they treat you like family. I think everyone in the coaching room genuinely cares about each and every individual and that says a lot about the people they've put in place here. That's something you want to be around."
That is what makes the union of Ryan and the Senators so perfect. With Alfredsson's departure and the 30-year-old Jason Spezza entering the final stages of his career, Ottawa is in need of a new cornerstone and the talented Ryan certainly fits the mold.
And for the New Jersey-born Ryan, feeling wanted has to be nice. Despite scoring more than 30 goals four times with the Ducks, who selected him second overall in the 2005 draft, Ryan constantly found himself mentioned in trade rumors year in and year out.
The Anaheim Ducks are by no means a poorly run team, so their willingness to jettison Ryan had to raise some eyebrows. And perhaps their hand was tipped when former Ducks general manager Brian Burke questioned Ryan's intensity while he was part of the management team selecting the U.S. men's hockey team for the 2014 Olympics.
Ryan, of course, ended up being one of the higher-profile players left off the Olympic roster.
Would Burke have questioned Ryan's toughness had he known the winger was currently playing for the Senators with an injury?
It's moot now and Ryan only has to be concerned with what the Senators think of his character. For their part, any worries the franchise may have had about Ryan's willingness to leave it all on the ice should be put to rest.
Ryan said on Thursday that he put off having surgery because it was an ailment he could play through, noting the pain in December and January wasn't too bad but that it continued to get worse. The tight schedule caused by the Olympic break didn't help, either.
One also has to wonder if Burke's comments perhaps caused Ryan to play longer than he should, but the forward dismissed that notion.
"For me (the Olympic snub) was maybe in the back of my mind, but for being here individually I felt like 'new team, new situation,' we were up and down, we weren't where we needed to be as a team, I wanted to play, I wanted to compete with the guys," Ryan said. "Luckily everybody that I had talked to in the organization felt that if I felt I could play, I could play.
"Once it's torn, it's torn, it's not going to get any worse. As long as we could try to manage the pain I could play, but it continually got to the point where we couldn't anymore."
Of course, the injury also explains Ryan's tail off from his fast start. Ryan by no means disappointed with 23 goals and 48 points in 70 games this season, but he ended on a slower pace after opening the campaign with nine goals and 19 points in 17 games.
The Senators are a long shot to make the playoffs this season and will likely sit out the postseason for the first time in three years. It also would mark Ottawa's third time missing the playoffs in the last 17 years, so it's obvious there is some transition going on.
"This was a weird year. For times it looked great and for times nothing seemed to -- we'd take one step forward and two steps back," Ryan said of Ottawa's season. "It has certainly been a learning curve for a lot of guys in the room that maybe haven't been through this. I've been through it and learned how to handle it a little bit, but I certainly see that potential."
Ryan is a big part of that potential. Now it is up to the two sides to make it a lasting relationship.