Ryan Craig didn’t need to wade into the annual free agent frenzy to get the NHL contract he was seeking.
Coming off a productive season in the AHL, the 31-year-old forward from Abbotsford agreed to a new two-year, two-way deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to the opening of the NHL’s free agency period on July 5. The pact was officially announced by the team last Friday.
According to capgeek.com, the deal pays $600,000 annually if Craig is in the NHL, and $200,000 at the AHL level.
“I’m definitely excited to have an NHL contract again, and in an organization where I played last year and laid some groundwork,” said Craig, who was on an AHL contract with the Springfield Falcons, the Blue Jackets’ affiliate, last season.
“I feel like the Columbus Blue Jackets, as a whole organization, are on the rise. There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on there.”
Craig is a veteran of 190 NHL regular season games, having suited up with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins in past years, but has spent the bulk of his time in the AHL over the past four seasons.
Last summer, with NHL contracts tough to come by with the lockout looming, Craig settled for a one-year AHL deal with the Falcons. He turned in a terrific campaign, serving as captain and posting 20 goals and 27 assists in 75 games.
His comfort level in the organization was such that he didn’t feel the need to shop his services as a free agent, and he’s excited by the major moves the Blue Jackets have made, including inking highly sought-after forward Nathan Horton, formerly of the Boston Bruins.
“My family is comfortable there, I’m comfortable there,” Craig said. “It’s an organization that’s continuing to go in the right direction, and it’s a great fit.
“I’m going to go in and compete for a job (with Columbus), and if I don’t make it out of training camp, then my goal is to be in line for a call-up, whenever that may be.”
Craig spends his off-seasons in Brandon, Man., where he played his junior hockey with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He and wife Jaydee are expecting their third child in October.