A hint of relief could be heard in Bob Murray's voice, as if he could finally breathe easier.
It was never going to be smooth handing over a rare 30-goal scorer like Bobby Ryan to another team, but Murray had to do it at some point to gain space under the new NHL salary cap as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks.
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After much of the opening day free-agent dust settled Friday, Murray made a blockbuster move when he traded Ryan to the Ottawa Senators for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first-round pick in the 2014 NHL draft.
By dealing Ryan, Anaheim, which re-signed Saku Koivu to a one-year, $2.5 million extension, has $9.2 million worth of cap space, according to Capgeek.com. Murray typically likes to operate at about $2 million to $3 million under the cap.
"It was the best hockey deal that I was offered for him," Murray said in a conference call. "When you're trading a guy the caliber of Bobby, you've got to get a deal that helps you now and in the future. That's what we were looking for.
"We were far too close to the cap before and I was not comfortable there. We did not enjoy those years where every morning you would have to figure out whether you were under or over [the cap]. This gives us room if another good hockey deal comes along."
Only time will tell if Silfverberg and Noesen can make up for what Anaheim loses in Ryan, a four-time 30-goal scorer who formed one of the best lines in the NHL with Ryan Getzlaf and former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry. Ryan also was among the team's best speakers, a candid and refreshing personality who owned it when the Ducks underperformed.
Ryan, who wrote "Ottawa ... I'm coming in hot" on his Twitter account, later told reporters the trade will allow him to "push the restart" button.
Ryan's tenure in Anaheim was tempered by instability. The organization struggled to find room in the salary cap for him on the big club when he was ready in the 2008-09 season, and former coach Randy Carlyle experimented with him on multiple lines and made an unsuccessful attempt to try him at center. Coach Bruce Boudreau moved Ryan around quite a bit this season and didn't always place him with Getzlaf and Perry.
Ryan was long rumored to head to his hometown Philadelphia Flyers, and the speculation came to a head on 2012 draft day when Ryan told the New Jersey Courier-Post, "Anaheim to me has been a team over the past year that really has shown me nothing to prove that they want me here, unfortunately." Ryan later backed off that comment, but it was clear that, despite his love for the area, he wasn't entirely comfortable with his status in Anaheim.
Ultimately, the Ducks were squeezed as Ryan's $5.1 million annual cap charge became more impractical after the March extensions of Getzlaf and Perry for eight-years each at $66 million and $69 million, respectively.
Murray said of his phone call to tell Ryan he was traded, "It was OK … he was totally classy with me. I don't think it shocked him. I thought the call was fine. They're not easy calls to make.
"Unfortunately, Bobby played second fiddle for so long here and never got the full opportunity. Through it all he was an outstanding Duck, an outstanding player for us and a solid citizen. These are not easy days for me. I've known Bobby for years … we can only thank him."
With Silfverberg and Noesen, the Ducks get two promising young forwards and Murray said Silfverberg could take Ryan's spot on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry. Silfverberg, 22, is a right wing who had 10 goals and nine assists in 48 games this season, along with two goals and two assists in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games, but he could play on the left side.
Murray called Silfverberg a "very smart hockey player with a great shot."
"We've liked him for a few years now," he said.
Noesen, 20, was the 21st pick in 2011 draft. He recorded 220 points in four seasons with Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. Murray called him "a big man (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) who has skill, but his skill has to come from playing a power forward role" and said "we've got some work to do, but we like what we have."
The addition of Silfverberg and Noessen, and the progression of forwards Kyle Palmieri and Emerson Etem, gives Anaheim much to look forward to in the future. Whether that future includes Teemu Selanne is unclear.
Murray laughed when asked about Selanne, who turned 43 on July 1, because Murray knew the question was coming.
"I'll handle that next week," Murray said. "He's watching what I'm doing."