The Edmonton Oilers waived Ryan Spooner earlier this week. The Oilers acquired him from the New York Rangers in exchange for fellow forward Ryan Strome just two months ago. Ryan Spooner was once regarded as one of the most promising talents within the Boston Bruins organization. It is quite surprising that he has ended up traded twice, and then placed on waivers in the last twelve months.
What went wrong with Ryan Spooner?
The Bruins selected Spooner in the second round, 45th overall at the 2010 NHL Draft. Spooner was seen as a playmaking center who likes to have the puck on his stick. He had excellent smarts and hockey IQ. His two-way play and potential to be a group leader also convinced the Bruins to draft him almost nine years ago.
Spooner played his first games in the AHL with the Providence Bruins in the season following his draft. In three games, the young center collected two goals and one assist. The following year, he continued his career in the OHL and skated in another five games with the Providence Bruins. His first call-up from Boston Bruins came in February 2013 and Spooner made his NHL debut on February 6th, 2013, against the Montreal Canadiens.
Later that same season, he participated in other three games with the Bruins but did not record a point. His first point in the NHL came when he assisted on Carl Soderberg´s goal at TD Garden against the Anaheim Ducks on October 31, 2013. It was also the first goal in the NHL for Soderberg. Spooner skated in 23 games in total that year for Boston and had 11 assists.
It seemed that Spooner was heading in the right direction. Originally drafted in 2010, he began to leave his first marks in the NHL just three years later.
Breakout years with the Boston Bruins
2015 was a breakout year for Spooner. He scored his first NHL goal on February 27, 2015, against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. He scored a game-winner in overtime assisted by Milan Lucic. Bruins head coach Claude Julien tried to find a right combination to wake up his team in order to make a push for the playoffs. In closing weeks of that 2014-2015 season, Spooner centred a line with David Pastrnak and Lucic. It was probably the best Bruins line at the time and Spooner had eight goals and 18 points combined in 29 appearances in the NHL.
That success led to the Bruins signing him to a two-year contract extension worth $950,000 per year. Spooner earned this contract and he also deserved to become an NHL regular the next season. In that 2016-2017 season, Spooner played 80 games and recorded 13 goals and 36 assists for 49 points. Viewed as a player who could run a power play, play two-way hockey and make plays, the Bruins seemed happy with the youngster’s progression.
Signs of Struggle
Nevertheless, those two great seasons by Ryan Spooner were under the radar as the Bruins missed the playoffs in both of those campaigns. During the 2016-17 season, which was also a contract year, Spooner’s production dropped. He skated in 78 games, two games less than a year before, but collected just 39 points, 10 fewer than the previous campaign. In the playoffs, Spooner played in four games picking up two assists. New Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy even scratched him in two games letting Spooner know of his worsening performances.
Bruins fans were also not happy with his performances, even though he continued to produce offensively. Expectations on him were pretty high but the defensive end of his two-way potential stagnated, and he was unable to reach expectations of 50 points per year.
2017 Changes The Narrative
Contract negotiations in the summer of 2017 went probably over the line. Spooner filled for arbitration, but at the last minute, the Bruins and Spooner agreed on a deal. It was a one-year contract worth $2.825 million. This was definitely not expected by either of the sides, as Spooner hoped for a bigger contract. Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney hesitated.
In the new season, Spooner continued his rather poor play and also went down injured for more than a month. But a nightmare appeared to come to an end for Ryan Spooner. Coming back from injury, he opened a new chapter and played his best hockey in more than two years. Spooner played in 39 games with the Bruins recording 25 points. In addition, he was +10, in contrast to that, he was combined -17 in his previous two seasons.
However, difficult contract negotiations from a year before left a bad taste in the Bruins mouth. Don Sweeney decided to include Ryan Spooner in a trade with the New York Rangers, which brought Rick Nash to Boston.
Spooner had a great time playing with the Rangers while collecting 16 points in 20 games. Posting 41 points in 59 games combined with the Bruins and the Rangers during last campaign, he had seemingly turned the corner. Spooner signed a longer and bigger contract last off-season. The Rangers and Spooner settled on a two-year deal worth $4,000,000 per season.
An outlook of the current poor season
Now we can finally shift to the present season. Spooner began the year with one goal and one assist in 16 games with the Rangers. That was definitely a miserable outing for the 26-year-old center. The Rangers knew they have to do something with him considering his big contract, even though only for one more season. Then the Rangers decided to swap struggling forwards with the Edmonton Oilers and received Ryan Strome.
In Edmonton, Spooner would re-unite with Lucic and general manager Peter Chiarelli, who drafted him back in 2010 with the Boston Bruins.
From the Rangers perspective, it looks like Ryan Strome has been an improvement. Strome has played 29 games in New York so far collecting six goals and 11 points. On the other side, Ryan Spooner never really settled in with the Oilers. Recently waived, Spooner has just three points in 25 games in Edmonton.
Wasted Talent or Unfortunate Situation
Ryan Spooner went from 50 points per season player to a player having five miserable points in 41 games this season. Spooner will celebrate his 27th birthday just a week from now. Waived and cleared, Spooner remains on the Oilers roster, as they have not yet opted to send him to the AHL. Spooner last played in the AHL almost four years ago.
Spooner is not a bad player. Still in his 20s, the former second-round pick has a good skill set and high hockey IQ. He is a versatile player, who can be used as a center or a winger, and works well on the power play. In 314 career games, he has recorded 163 points. It is unlikely that he has forgotten how to produce but is currently mired in the midst of a disastrous slump.
For Spooner, it was just bad timing to have his contract negotiations in that 2017 off-season. The Bruins were not looking for a big type of contract that time and Spooner after all he had accomplished had a right to ask for something more than just an average deal. Both sides settled on a one-year deal, which has not satisfied either party. After his trade to the Rangers, Spooner found himself on a team potentially not making the playoffs for a while. And his former Bruins finished with 112 points last year.
Turning It Around
It was a good idea by the Rangers to trade Spooner away in seek for a change of the scenery for him. But Edmonton is just currently not an ideal place to get your career running again.
Spooner has to get back to that 2017 summer and to the reason why the Bruins weren´t trusting him enough to give him a long-term contract worth at least $4,000,000 per season. With his present struggles, the Bruins were probably right in hesitating about Spooner a year-and-a-half earlier.
There is some hope as Spooner is still a relatively young player who can find his stride again. For now, he has to start from the beginning all over again.
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