This year, albeit still extremely early, has not gone as planned for Boston Bruins forward Ryan Spooner.
Moved from his natural center position to the wing, back to center, back to wing, and now expected to be back to center again for tonight’s head-to-head with the Florida Panthers, the 24-year-old Spooner has struggled to the tune of one goal, two points, and 14 shots on goal in seven games played.
Spooner has even sat as a healthy scratch for the Bruins once this year, in the club’s home opener no less, a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 20.
The scratch prompted talk of Spooner, who has spent his entire career with the Bruins, finding himself on the outs as a trade chip for a Black and Gold roster deep down the middle.
Spooner’s potentially unfavorable status with the club was the talk of Sportsnet’s intermission discussion on Hockey Night in Canada this past Saturday, too.
“He’s a 50-point player who gets paid a million dollars,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said. “I think there’s a lot of teams that would like to have him.”
Under contract at a reasonable $950,000 through this season and under team control as an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent next summer, Spooner undeniably has tremendous value on the market as a secondary scoring center. It’s just that the Bruins — with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and David Backes (though he’s been viewed as more of a winger for Krejci than center during his brief time in Boston) all locked up long term, and with Austin Czarnik emerging as a potentially capable third-line center option — are, again, loaded at center.
This is not the first time that Spooner has found himself in trade rumors, as the Bruins nearly moved Spooner to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Chris Stewart in early 2015, and likely would have had Krejci not gone down with a significant injury right before the trade deadline. But slotted into a position to succeed as a offensive center playing with skill guys with Krejci’s injury (Spooner instantly manned Krejci’s spot between Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak), the Ottawa, Ont., native finished his season with seven goals and 15 points in his final 20 games played. Spooner carried that momentum into last season as the replacement for Carl Soderberg on their third line, and recorded 13 goals and 49 points in 80 games for the Black and Gold.
But their wealth of centers has moved Spooner out of his comfort zone as a winger, a role Spooner admits he’s played less than 15 games at in his “entire life” and perhaps out of favor with the B’s.
It is worth noting, too, that the Bruins have a combined zero points from their third line this season, a line that’s had Spooner in at center — his usual spot a year ago — just once.
“I don’t think it’s so quick the Bruins are interested in moving him, but I think they will listen,” Friedman continued. “If it’s a top young defenseman that could come the other way, I think there’s a possibility.”
The hunt for the Bruins since the Dougie Hamilton trade, and if you want to go back even further, the Johnny Boychuk trade, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has continued to scour the NHL market in search of a young, high upside defenseman to step in as the club’s heir apparent to the 39-year-old Zdeno Chara (but also help the Bruins compete for a Stanley Cup in the now).
The obvious name on that front is Winnipeg Jets defenseman and holdout, Jacob Trouba.
But Spooner alone is not even close to the package the Jets would like for Trouba, which is mentioned as Spooner, Brandon Carlo, and a first-round pick by Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos.
A second-round pick by the B’s in 2010, Spooner has 22 goals and 80 points in 143 NHL games.
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