By Matthew Cunha
The Boston Bruins and forward Ryan Spooner came to a $2.825 million agreement just hours before their arbitration hearing. The original offer for the Bruins 25 year old forward was $2 million. Spooner’s side was asking for a contract with an annual average value around $3.8 million. The one year deal for the young forward will be his last chance to show something to the black and gold that warrants keeping him for the future.
Spooner had just 39 points last season and watched the last two playoff games for the B’s from the press box. Spooner has some upside on the power play, but offers little in other areas of the game if not being a point producer. He’s soft on the boards, can’t win face-offs, and refuses to hit anybody.
For a team looking to fill in the gaps with young players, the signing of Spooner for an acceptable contract could be a ploy to trade the forward. Spooner has some value as a possible third line center who can help a team on the power play. Spooner leaving would allow another young player with a higher ceiling to land minutes. Two full seasons in the NHL for Spooner have been underwhelming. He dropped 10 points from his 49 point total in 2015-16. Either way for the Bruins, agreeing to a good contract with Spooner is a win.
Currently, the Bruins have very few forwards who you know will be on the opening day roster. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, David Backes, David Pastrnak and Riley Nash are locks to make the forward lines on opening night. 23-year-old Frank Vatrano is likely to be on the roster, but is not a sure thing. Matt Beleskey, another veteran in the group, is less than a sure thing after spending most of the end of last season as a healthy scratch and accumulated just 8 points.
Even if Beleskey and Vatrano make the cut, it leaves 4 spots to be taken by young players yet to be named. Factoring in Spooner lowers the number to 3. Still a big number that realistically will be even larger.
The uncertainty of the group of forwards is accompanied by less questions on the backend thanks to breakout season of Brandon Carlo and the star of the Bruins brief playoff stint, Charlie McAvoy. Carlo will fit alongside Chara as the B’s shutdown pair, while McAvoy will likely fit alongside Kevan Miller. That leaves a steady Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid fitting back in as the reliable pair. The two have played with each other since the Bruins 2013 cup run. The Bruins defense could return to being the strength of the team like it was in 2011 and 2013.
The success of the young guys in the B’s first round last season leaves Bruins fans with a reason to be optimistic. Charlie McAvoy will be the must watch player of the season for the black and gold after delivering instantly in the playoffs. The young guns who will fill in the gaps at forward leaves the B’s with a lot of questions. It’s actually kind of exciting as we have heard how well GM Don Sweeney has drafted. The success of the Bruins depends on the success of these players. The youth movement is underway, and if these guys don’t deliver, Don Sweeney might not be long for this world.
Matthew Cunha is a producer on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.