After Cal and Ryan O’Reilly signed their new deals with the Nashville Predators to kick off free agency, the excitement among their family was palpable.
Cal signed a one-year AHL deal with the Milwaukee Admirals while Ryan’s deal is good for the next four seasons with the Predators. The last time the pair was in the same organization was with the Buffalo Sabres from 2015 to 2017.
“He can lead with just the way he plays,” Cal said of Ryan to Nashville Hockey Now this week. “He fits in so well and I know I played for Trotz and I was in the organization for a long time so I know what they’re about and I think he’ll fit just right in.”
Added Ryan: “I found out I was coming here and there was so much excitement to be able to do that. To see he’s coming with me to be a part of it as well and to share that as brothers late in our careers and to be able to do it playing healthy is something that we’re excited for and both of our parents couldn’t be happier.”
Playing last year with both the St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs, the 32-year-old center is walking into a role of leadership and mentorship in Nashville, much like Cal is with Milwaukee.
“I think the older you get the more you have to establish the details, not just one area to every area,” Ryan stated. “I look at myself and I still have a lot of ways to grow my game and get better. I think young guys that’s something they have to understand too. You have to keep getting better in all aspects and I think that’s one of the reasons I’m here is to help teach that and help develop that way.”
Along with winning the Stanley Cup in 2019, Ryan also won the Conn Smythe as well, which is awarded to the Most Valuable Player of the postseason. Knowing what a championship-contending team looks like, Ryan walks into Nashville where he feels the organization can compete sooner rather than later.
“The veteran players that are here right now, I think, are so willing to impact the game; it’s so impressive,” Ryan said. “I think last year watching the youth, there’s a great balance of both and I think when you come in here, I think it’s something I look forward to. I think we can take a step and be right there to be competing for the Cup.
“We have great young pieces. Why can’t we contend? Why can’t we win? It’s a long year, but preparing the right way in the summer — doing things the right way going into camp — we start building a foundation and we keep adding to it.”
HI RYAN 👋🏻 pic.twitter.com/DQRy1Fx9Fe
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) July 13, 2023
With the pieces on the roster, Ryan believes that Nashville has the right process moving forward with general manager Barry Trotz calling the shots. He hopes he can help guide the skaters down a path he’s already gone down.
Ryan isn’t the only one experienced veteran joining the Predators. Defenseman Luke Schenn was added to the team also after signing a three-year deal on July 1. Both players were teammates in Toronto after being acquired prior to the trade deadline last season.
“For me to be able to play with him again, to know how much he impacts the game and things he does and the leadership too (is great),” Ryan said of Schenn. “Adding him makes our team so much better, so it definitely helps.”
Hockey-wise Cal talked to his brother more about the organization, what Nashville was like, and what to expect at this point in his career (Cal is four years older than Ryan).
“The young pieces here he said it was very impressive and going into the right direction,” Cal said. “And too with goaltending and defensive corp… How do you not want to go there and compete? He definitely helped and made the decision a lot easier.”
In the face-off dot last season, Ryan’s 499 wins would have ranked third on the team behind Colton Sissons (593) and former Predator Ryan Johansen (502). Ryan likely will fill the gap Trotz created by trading Johansen to the Colorado Avalanche before the 2023 draft.
“I feel great about it,” he stated. “Like I said, I build my game from the defensive zone out or without the puck and the offense comes from there. I think this team from the years playing against them, it is a tough team to play, so that’s something I want to add on top of. I want to be difficult to play against and build up from there.”