Update: now official:
Ryan Reaves is a polarizing player, and it's therefore fitting that his playing career has two versions, poles apart, there's Vegas and there's not-Vegas.
But to begin at the beginning:
Reaves is 36 years old, listed at 6'2" and 225 lb, and he was drafted in the fifth round back in 2005, the year this year's draftees were born. He was a low-scoring player in the WHL with some PIM, but not always massive numbers for those days where over 200 PIM in a season got you in the top 10.
Reaves played in the AHL for several years before becoming a fulltime NHLer in 2011 (barring the lockout). He has 828 NHL games played, with a PPG rate of .16. I like to look at long-career points rates for a certain type of player on the Roman Polak scale – his career NHL mark is .17.
In St. Louis, where he began, Reaves' penalty rate was at least 1 PIM per game (Michael Bunting's rate) and often as much as 2 PIM per game. In 2017, as the NHL game was changing a great deal, Reaves was traded to the Penguins for Oskar Sundqvist, a feisty player with somewhat more hockey skill, but not a lot more.
Pittsburgh traded Reaves to Vegas a few months later in the complex three-team Derick Brassard deal involving Ottawa. Reaves stayed with Vegas until they unexpectedly traded him to the Rangers in 2021. The Rangers traded him to Minnesota last fall as that team flailed around trying to figure themselves out.
After his first Vegas season, his PIM dropped considerably, below 1 PIM per game, and it's stayed that low through his more recent career. It might be age more than the pace and style of Vegas's play – hard, but not stupid – that changed his game. Although he did score more goals in Vegas than anywhere else, and made more money. They paid him $2.775 million. His two more recent deals have been for $1.75
There are two other poles to his hockey career, a set nearly every non-star player has. His peak age years in St. Louis, when he was 25-27 or so, he had very, very good defensive impacts. He could add a nullification value to a fourth line that at least meant no goals against. That's gone now. His current ability defensively is replacement level, and let's just consider what that actually means.
Replacement level essentially means the big, vast body of players who can play the fourth line, who can be called up from the AHL and be okay, who might be PK specialists who just exist otherwise. He's not a negative impact defensively. He reads offensively about like any other depth player who isn't some ageing scoring star. He's not Jason Spezza in his twilight years. But he is, though. Spezza's final year in the NHL was exactly the same flatline replacement level guy at five-on-five. Spezza could score on the power play a little and did faceoffs in the d-zone to add value, but he was never good at five-on-five at the end.
What's Reaves' claim to an NHL job as he eases towards retirement? Well, you know the answer to that. He hits hard, he agitates, he gets in the scrums, he clears the crease. He fires up the boys on the bench (it might not work on you or I, but it does on them a lot of the time – and the crowd). And sometimes he hits dirty. Sometimes he goes too far. He's all the things about Bunting that aren't hockey. He's all the things about hockey that you can get from any number of players for minimum salary. Even at his peak, he didn't ever play off the fourth line and he is many ways one of the last relics of the transition period between fighting and expecting at least some hockey skill in the team tough guy.
At least when he gets suspended it's no great loss.
If you value his optional extra – look, he's like buying a 40 ouncer at the LCBO for the mini-bottle – but if you really like that mini-bottle, you might do the deal. If you don't put any value in his other activities, you'll hate it. He's not yet unplayable, but at his age, he'll get there quick.
I have nothing against the man, but it's an absurd amount to spend for 10 minutes a game and the term is even more absurd for a player his age.
In advance of actually knowing the salary structure, these are the current buyout rules for 35+ contracts, per CapFriendly:
A buyout of a 35+ contract that is two years in length or longer and:
1. Has a signing bonus in the 2nd or later year, OR
2. Is front-loaded
Will not benefit from a reduced cap hit.
The cap hit will remain structured as it was before the buyout. The benefit of a 35+ contract buyout with no cap hit reduction is that the player that the player will not count towards their 23 roster limit, and the salary owed to the player is reduced by 1/3