The 2008-09 season will go down as an important one in Ryan Bayda's career. For the first time, the 28-year-old forward established himself as an everyday NHLer, playing 70 games and averaging more than 10 minutes of ice time.
But despite finally "making it," Bayda's status an an unrestricted free agent puts him — and his career — in a state of limbo. Bayda once left the organization, spending the season with Vancouver's affiliate in Manitoba, only to come back. If Carolina — which will have plenty of forwards for next season if they can re-sign their other free agents — passes on Bayda, is there a place for him elsewhere in the NHL?
|2008 - Ryan Bayda||70||5||7||12||2||26||0||0||0||0||62||8.1|
The Good: As mentioned above, this was Bayda's first time as a full-time NHLer. Unlike his other seasons in the league, he was never assigned to the AHL and made himself into an everyday fourth-liner with two different head coaches. Bayda was a reliable penalty killer, averaging 1:48 of shorthanded ice time per game, tops among players who spent the entire season with the club (only Patrick Dwyer, Brandon Sutter and Jussi Jokinen averaged more. Rod Brind'Amour averaged eight seconds per game less penalty kill time than Bayda).
On top of that, Bayda upped his game in the postseason, scoring four points (two goals and two assists) and wasn't afraid to get his nose dirty.
The Bad: Bayda didn't really do anything bad, so to speak. But his failure to make himself irreplaceable has his future with the Hurricanes — and in the NHL — at risk. With an expiring contract, Bayda really needed to take the next step, be it as a more reliable scorer (Chad LaRose), more physical checker (Craig Adams) or pesky agitator (Tim Conboy). His growth as a penalty killer is a plus, but might not be enough to keep in the NHL. His best chance might be the fact that he's a home-grown product, and GM Jim Rutherford is one of the more loyal front office guys out there.
The Stats: The most important statistic for Bayda: 70. That's the number of games he played in the NHL this season, 26 more than he played in any previous year.
- 5 goals — his career high, though he scored four in 2002-03 in just 25 games.
- 7 assists — in his previous three seasons, he had seven assists in 84 NHL games.
- Plus-2 — he was one of just seven Canes on the right side of the plus/minus ledger.
- 26 PIMs — two fewer than last year, in 39 more games.
- 62 shots — his 0.9 shots per game was a full shot less than he averaged in 2007-08.
- 46 blocked shots — led all Hurricanes forwards.
The Money: Bayda earned the NHL minimum ($475,000) this season, the final year of his contract. If Bayda is to sign another one-way contract — from Carolina or another team — it will likely be for the same amount. He'd take it.
Want more? Check out Exit Analysis: Rod Brind'Amour.