Ryan Spooner had himself a solid 2017-18 NHL season in which he spent 20 games with the New York Rangers.
Spooner scored four goals and added 12 assists for 16 points which equates to 0.80 points per game. That’s an impressive number and you might be thinking that perception of Spooner is clouded by recency bias, but he’s shown that he has the potential to be an effective player for most of his career.
The Bruins decided to give Spooner a full-time spot during the 2015-16 season after he impressed with 18 points in 29 games during the 2014-15 campaign. Spooner’s 24-year-old season saw him score 13 goals while adding 36 assists for 49 points in 80 games while averaging 15:08 a night.
A bit of regression in play during a tough 2016-17 campaign for the Bruins saw Spooner’s ice time dip to 14:06 a game but he managed to finish with 39 points in 78 games. From that point his name seemed to enter the trade rumors circuit, and it didn’t help that a groin and lower body injury hampered Spooner at the start of the 2017-18 campaign. This prevented him from being in the lineup, and somewhat hurt his trade value.
When he did get healthy he primarily played with David Krejci and Jake Debrusk and had great success scoring nine goals and adding 16 assists for 25 points in just 25 games. His 0.64 point per game production was slightly ahead of his career average of 0.56 and there was finally reason to believe he’d found his place.
Despite his success the Bruins felt the need to upgrade and included him in the deal which sent Rick Nash to the Rangers and a 2018 first-round draft pick, Ryan Lindgren and Matt Beleskey to New York.
Although it wasn’t outright confirmed, the Rangers pretty much were able to acquire Spooner partially because of a willingness to eat 50% of Beleskey’s contract. It originally was an atrocious deal worth $3.8 million against the cap, but the Rangers are responsible for $1.9 million if he’s on the roster or just $875k if he’s kept in Hartford.
The Bruins wanted to move on from his contract which was being stashed in the minors, and this was the opportunity. Whatever the case may be, it was a savvy move on the part of Jeff Gorton because Spooner was amazing for the Blueshirts.
While Spooner shouldn’t be expected to put up 66 points a season, his point per game rate extended over an 82-game season, evidence shows he can be a 45+ point player. He’s going to need a new contract as a restricted free agent, and he’s arbitration eligible and one contract year away from unrestricted free agency.
His fate with the team could be tied to some decisions on other players such as Vladislav Namestnikov, Kevin Hayes and potentially Mats Zuccarello. I mention Zuccarello because he is turning 31 in September and with one year left on his deal he could be used as a potential trade chip. His dealing would open up a spot on the wing which Spooner theoretically slide into for a year while the Rangers are figuring out the direction of their roster.
There is also the whole Ilya Kovalchuk situation, but that’s a situation we won’t officially know anything about until July.
Spooner’s sample in New York was small, but it was a strong one that should earn him a spot in next year’s lineup. He’s appeared in 253 games over six seasons averaging 14:32 a game and found a way to pick up 142 points. If you exclude his stint with the Rangers, he’s averaged 0.56 points per game which is 46 over a full season. If you take that and consider Spooner could be in a situation where he receives around the 16:41 a game he played in New York, I think you are looking at potentially 50 points.
It will be interesting to see how the front office handles him, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was one of the best players in the entire NHL acquired at the trade deadline.