It’s easy to look at the Boston Bruins’ offseason as a summer in which the team only got worse through subtractions, but the flip side is that those omissions also open up opportunities for others. One prospect who could be a big-time beneficiary is Ryan Spooner.
Various outlets paint him as the Bruins’ best prospect, with the 22-year-old inspiring rave reviews for his speed and skill.
The 2010 second-round pick (45th overall) already managed 11 assists in 23 games at the NHL level this season after failing to record a point in four games back in 2012-13. (He’s still searching for that first NHL tally.) Spooner bounced between the AHL and NHL last season, scoring 46 points in 49 games with the Providence Bruins.
Combine the departures of Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton with the Bruins’ noted salary cap worries and it’s easy to see a golden opportunity for Spooner, especially since he’s still on his cheap ($760K cap hit) entry-level deal.
While his ceiling is probably lower than that of Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin, the burning question seems familiar enough: can he put in the necessary work in the defensive zone to appease head coach Claude Julien? Stanley Cup of Chowder implied that he could be seen as a trade bait by the organization:
What can we expect in subsequent seasons? Seeing plays set up by Ryan Spooner in a different jersey, probably. First there’s the log-jam at center and an obstinance toward even consider him as a winger. Then there’s Julien’s remarks upon his demotion: “Love his speed, love his creativity and everything else but when you play in the NHL you need a little bit more than that.” Then there’s the fact that he’s joined [Alexander] Khokhlachev as the favorite forward name in trade rumors, including notably the [Alexander] Edler deal that wasn’t at this season’s deadline. Several signs point toward a team that views him more valuable as a commodity than player. Having zilch in the pipeline in this mold and a mid-career bunch at the position, the Bruins would be wise to hang on to their ELC depth, but with rumors of a team very active on the off-season market, it might behoove fans to loosen their attachment to this particular prospect.
Well, that doesn’t sound especially promising.
Of course, a lot can happen between today and the Bruins’ Oct. 8 season opener, so another roster move or two could force the issue of integrating Spooner into the lineup that much more.
Whether it’s in Boston or perhaps another NHL city, this could very well be the year that Spooner makes the leap to a full-time roster fixture. That doesn’t mean his work will be done by any stretch, though.