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Ryan Spooner And Arbitration

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New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It’s a rare thing to want a player to go to arbitration. It’s less rare, but still unusual, to have no preference on whether or not a player makes it to their court date.

And yet here we are, nearing the end of July with Ryan Spooner still unsigned, feeling just like that.

The Rangers and Spooner are presumably working out a contract extension, since the trade market has cooled considerably at this point. Deals can still be cut, but the opportunity for teams to make bigger moves to their roster has, for the most part, happened already. The good news? The Rangers can use Spooner’s skills, so there’s no harm in keeping him around short term. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, they will meet August 4th for an arbitration hearing.

According to Matt Cane’s prediction model, Spooner is projected to be worth $2.61-million on a one-year deal (which leads in term probability at 35 percent), $3.36-million on a two-year deal, and $4.27-million on a four-year deal. The Rangers are quite obviously not expected to lock up Spooner long term, but keeping him around this year or next isn’t a bad move at all. The risk with a guy like Spooner has always been the consistency in his play. Are you getting the Spooner that dominated games like he was the centerpiece in the return for Rick Nash on Broadway? Or are you getting the Spooner that put up 39 points in 78 games and had subpar metrics on both sides of the ice?

More often than not, however, Spooner has value on offense. Assuming he puts together an average year based on his career, we’re talking about a 47-point player here. That’s nothing to scoff at, even if you’re dealing with issues on the back end with his underlying metrics.

That said, there’s little interest in a long term relationship — to the tune of mild shock that Spooner is still a Ranger as of this writing. According to reports the Rangers attempted to move Spooner (and even Vlad Namestnikov) but the John Tavares situation held up the market long enough to kill any real interest. Spooner would be a welcomed addition to a top-nine that’s going to be very kid friendly — Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey and Namestnikov are all 25 or under, while Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson are both still teenagers. On the podcast this week I argued that Spooner would probably see top six minutes if he were kept around since it makes sense for David Quinn to use Namestnikov as a “safety net” for the kids up and down the forward lineup. With metrics like his, Namestnikov could allow guys like Chytil to spread their wings on offense with the knowledge that he’s taking care of things on the back end.

Back to Spooner: as a short term fill in he’s a perfect candidate. He can add to their offense, with a more expanded role could put up 55ish points (or even more), and would be amazing trade bait if/when the Rangers aren’t contending by the deadline. It’s smart business to keep him around. It’s also smart business to make sure that the contract is a year, rather than two, since you’d have to assume Jeff Gorton is keeping his eye on the Artemi Panarin situation and his pending free agency.

This is where arbitration comes into play. The Rangers could happily allow things to go to arbitration, where a one-year deal is guaranteed and Spooner has to default to the Rangers’ decision on the terms. The Rangers, of course, are flush with cap space they have no use of this year, so there’s no reason why they would walk away from the deal. They keep Spooner for a year, he becomes a UFA in July, and everyone wins.

So, yeah, arbitration isn’t a big deal at all here. Actually, it’s probably a good thing because it restricts things to one year.

Brady Skjei and Hayes? Well now, that’s a different story.