Haggerty: Bruins case for hanging onto (and paying) Ryan Spooner

Haggerty: Bruins case for hanging onto (and paying) Ryan Spooner

Don Sweeney hasn’t been part of an arbitration hearing since taking over as general manager of the Bruins a couple of years ago, but that may change at the end of this month. Ryan Spooner and the Bruins have an arbitration date set for July 26, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, and it looks like the 25-year-old third line center is going to get awarded something between $2.7 million and 3.5 million for next season before it’s all said and done. 

The 5-foot-10, 184-pounder has averaged 12 goals and 44 points in each of the last two full seasons for the Black and Gold, but was a healthy scratch for playoff games at the end of Boston’s first round series against the Ottawa Senators. He’s been dangled in trade talks since the season ended for the B’s, and the expectation is that Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson will be getting a crack at the third line center job at the NHL sooner rather than later. 

Who can also forget just exactly how non-committal that Sweeney was toward Spooner when asked his future with the Bruins back at the end of April?

“To be determined,” said Sweeney at the end-of-the-season press conference. “We’ll look at our roster and what our options are. [Spooner] has options as well as an RFA. We’ll have discussions with his representatives and see where there’s a fit.

“Ryan’s a talented player. He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

All of that makes it interesting to see what the Bruins are going to do in the aftermath of what could be a contentious arbitration hearing with a player in Spooner, who isn’t likely to forget any slights by the organization thrown toward his game during the process. That’s the difficulty with the arbitration process and the biggest reason why teams look to avoid it at all costs with their young restricted free agents eligible for arbitration. 

In a perfect world, the Bruins would likely take their chances with Spooner at a reasonable number for the next couple of years as a 25-year-old likely to either maintain, or improve upon his numbers from the last couple of seasons. It’s no coincidence that the B’s power play has been excellent (seventh in the NHL in each of the last two seasons) with Spooner working the half-wall on the first unit, and a salary cap figure somewhere in the $3 million range would be excellent if they can find a way to get Spooner a top-6 role. 

If all things were equal, one would almost expect the Bruins to try and move David Krejci once they’ve settled things with Spooner. There are some very interesting analytical arguments to be made that Spooner would be as good, or better, than Krejci as a second line center over the next couple of seasons as a player that’s six years younger than him. 

This past season Spooner and Krejci had close to identical production (2.19 points per 60 for Spooner vs. 2.20 for Krejci), and a perusal of the fancy stats show that Spooner appears to have elevated Krejci’s 5-vs-5 play last season in just about every category – from generating shot attempts, to suppressing opponents’ attempts, and also in terms of finding the back of opponents’ nets and keeping the puck out of the Bruins’ net – while Spooner was playing an unfamiliar, uncomfortable position as a left winger after playing his entire pro career at center. 

  TOI  GF60 (5v5)  GA60 (5v5)  GF% (5v5)  CF60 (5v5)  CA60 (5v5)  CF% (5v5) 
               
Krejci with Spooner: 325:58 2.7 2.01 57.7 61.65 49.6 55.4
               
Krejci without Spooner:  822:25 2.19 2.99 42.3 59.39 53.77 52.5

Interestingly enough, the highest paid player on the team in Krejci, at $7.25 million per season, also didn’t do much to elevate the play of those on his line. One would expect Krejci to make players on his wings better given his playmaking, his past performance as a player and a greater focus on the offensive end from the new Bruins coaching staff. Another deep dive on the fancy stats showed that Krejci’s most common wingers (David Backes and David Pastrnak) were significantly better without Krejci than with him. 

  TOI  GF60 (5v5)  GA60 (5v5)  GF% (5v5)  CF60 (5v5)  CA60 (5v5)  CF% (5v5) 
               
Backes with Krejci  524:13 2.4 2.98 44.7 62.04 49.67 55.5
               
Backes without Krecji  482:18 3.11 1.99 61 62.95 49.02 56.2

 

  TOI  GF60 (5v5)  GA60 (5v5)  GF% (5v5)  CF60 (5v5)  CA60 (5v5)  CF% (5v5) 
               
Pastrnak with Krejci    2.41 2.83 45.9 60.42 56.32 51.8 
               
Pastrnak without Krejci   3.36 2.05 62.1 71.98 46.9 60.5 

So what does all of this mean?

Well, it means the Bruins are stuck in a difficult place with an aging Krejci that’s clearly slowing down his playmaking pace despite scoring an impressive 23 goals last season. The 31-year-old Krejci has voiced zero desire to waive his no-movement clause and allow the Bruins to get out from under a weighty contract that still has years to go before it’s done. The Bruins might just be better off with Spooner, or one of their other young centers, as a No. 2 pivot behind Patrice Bergeron over the next few seasons, and there’s an argument to be made for holding onto the 25-year-old despite his five-on-five play inconsistency and the areas of his game (defense, face-offs) that are perpetual works in progress. 

Clearly Spooner's skating speed and his ability to generate offense are the kinds of traits the Bruins are looking for under Bruce Cassidy. They just need more of it during even-strength play, and they need it from him on a consistent basis. 

Don’t be surprised if Spooner more than doubles his salary in arbitration for this upcoming season, and winds up on Boston’s third line once again this season if Sweeney doesn’t get what he’s looking for with any deals involving the speedy, skilled center. 

Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

philadelphia-flyers-nolan-patrick-nhl-draft.jpg

Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering what Melissa McCarthy is going to do now that Spicey is gone.

*The debut for Philadelphia Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick has been scratched due to “an infection in his face.” Boy, this kid can’t get healthy, can he?

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is 100 percent sure that the Winged Wheels will be making a return to the playoffs this season.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has hope returning to the city of Houston that they might get an NHL franchise one of these days.

*Travis Yost delves into shooting percentage and some of the nuances when properly trying to break it down statistically.

*There are new season ticket charges for Habs fans in Montreal, and boy are they pissed off about it. Feels like the kind of thing that could push them to riot in the streets or flood 911 emergency lines if the Canadiens aren’t too careful about it.

*Young Blues defenseman Colton Parayko signs a five-year deal with St. Louis to avoid salary arbitration while the D-man taken exactly one pick before him by the Bruins in the draft, Matt Grzelcyk, is going to be hard-pressed to move past the AHL level this season.

*For something completely different: What would Ivan Drago have been doing with his life after his showdown with Rocky in Mother Russia?