Sunday, August 19, 2018

Washington Capitals: One and Done -- Ryan Stanton: “I’ll Take ‘The Letter C’ for $200, Alex”

Since its founding in 1984, the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League have sent 60 players to the NHL.  Seven of that group played in the NHL without having been drafted, a group that includes three-time Stanley Cup winner Mike Keane.  It is a group that also includes defenseman Ryan Stanton, who spent parts of five seasons with the Warriors.

After his last season in Moose Jaw, in 2009-2010, Stanton was signed as a free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks, who assigned him to the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL.  He dressed for two games at the end of the 2009-2010 season with Rockford and then spent the next two full seasons there.  He spent almost an entire third season with the Ice Hogs, but at the end of the abbreviated 2012-2013 NHL season, he got a sweater for the Blackhawks’ regular season finale against the St. Louis Blues.  He skated 17:05 without a point, but finished plus-1 with two penalty minutes in what would be the only game he played with Chicago.  Hold that thought.

At the end of the following September, Stanton was placed on waivers by the Blackhawks and was claimed by the Vancouver Canucks.  It was there where Stanton found a home, or at least regular playing time.  In two seasons in Vancouver, he skated a total of 118 games, going 4-23-27, plus-14, averaging more than 15 minutes a night.

With his contract expiring at the end of the 2014-2015 season, Stanton was not extended a qualifying offer by the Canucks, and he became an unrestricted free agent.   He did not appear to draw a lot of immediate interest.  It was not until July 24th that he would sign a deal, inking a one-year/$575,000 contract with the Caps.  He opened the 2015-2016 season with the Hershey Bears in the AHL and appeared in 60 games for the Caps’ top minor-league affiliate.  There was that one call up in January, though.  The Caps already were missing defensemen Brooks Orpik to an injury when John Carlson caught the injury bug, and the Caps sent Connor Carrick down the Bears and brought Stanton up to face the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Caps went into Columbus on January 19th and overwhelmed the Blue Jackets with four straight goals in a span of less than 13 minutes after spotting the home team the first goal.  The outburst propelled the Caps to a 6-3 win that featured a four-assist night by Evgeny Kuznetsov and a pair of goals from Nicklas Backstrom.  Stanton’s line on the score sheet was more modest.  In 8:41 of ice time he was a minus-1, took a second-period holding penalty that led to a Columbus power play goal, and had an otherwise unmarked line on his score sheet.  It would be his only appearance with the Caps, and once Carlson was healthy enough to return to the lineup, he was reassigned to Hershey on January 28th.

At the end of the season Stanton would move on once more, signing a one-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche and extending a peculiar association with the letter “C.”  Originally signed by Chicago, moving on the Canucks, then to the Capitals, then to Colorado.  And then, in November 2016 he was traded to Columbus for defenseman Cody Goloubef.  Last summer he broke the string, signing a two-year free agent contract with the Edmonton Oilers.

The string Stanton has not been able to break since leaving the Capitals organization is the number of games played without a call-up to the NHL.  Over the last two seasons he played in a total of 94 games for three AHL clubs – San Antonio, Cleveland, and Bakersfield – but he has not cracked an NHL lineup.  At the age of 29, it is too early to say for certain (another “C”) that his NHL career is at an end, but for the moment it is that mid-January night in Columbus with the Caps that is his last NHL action.