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Anderson: Bruins are saving money on Ryan Spooner's new deal

Ty Anderson
July 26, 2017 - 3:09 pm

You probably did a spit take when you heard that Ryan Spooner, coming off a season in which he ended the year as a (relatively) healthy scratch for the club’s final two must-win playoff games of their first-round series loss to the Senators, was heading into an arbitration hearing with the Bruins requesting $3.85 million from the club.

And while you weren’t alone in that regard, it doesn’t mean that you were right. Numbers alone may point to Spooner being closer to that $3.85 million worth than the $2 million the Bruins approached arbitration with, actually, and arguably worth more than the $2.825 million he’ll make on a one-year deal he signed to avoid arbitration on Wednesday.

In other words, the Bruins may actually save money with Spooner's new deal.

In what what his second full NHL season, Spooner recorded 11 goals and 39 points in 78 games for the Black and Gold. Those 39 points ranked as the 146th-most among NHL forwards, which is not necessarily the most deserving of nearly $4 million, you’d argue. That’s mostly true, but also ignores the fact that the majority of that 78-game run was spent with Spooner playing out of position as a top-six left winger. It also ignores the impact he’s made on a B’s offense that hasn’t always been known for its offensive creativity, especially when it comes to their limited power-play opportunities.

Ranking 16th in power-play opportunities last season, and 28th the year before that, the Bruins rank fourth in the NHL over the last two years in total power-play percentage, with the B’s top-heavy group clicking at 21.1 percent since Spooner broke into the league and along the half wall of the club’s top unit back in 2015. Over that span, beginning on Feb. 22, 2015, the Bruins have goals on 107 of their 508 opportunities in total, and with Spooner recording 40 power-play points over that span. Otherwise known as direct No. 51 involvement in 37.3 percent of the team’s power-play goals.

And although the club boasts a star-studded top unit, the left-shot Spooner has proven himself to be a key part of that unit and not a simple beneficiary of playing with great players as many will try to tell you, with 26 power-play assists at 5-on-4 play over that span, which ranks as the third-most among Bruins skaters. Of Spooner’s 26 helpers, 17 have been primary assists, tying him with Patrice Bergeron for the second-most on the B’s roster. (Bergeron has 136 more minutes in this situation over the last three years.)

Spooner's aforementioned 40 power-play points overall are also tied with the Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau and Kings captain Anze Kopitar over that span. Gaudreau makes $6.75 million per season while Kopitar is a $10 million per year guy. Take the five players directly above them in this category and the five players below them for that matter and you have an average annual salary of $5.74 million per year.

Spooner will make almost $3 million less than that average next season.

Naturally, some people have used Spooner’s power-play prowess as their main point for their belief in not paying a player that they view as a 'power-play specialist' incapable of playing at five-on-five without being a detriment to your club’s overall game.

But that’s simply not true.

Over his current 169-game sample, Spooner has recorded 65 even-strength points. That ranks fifth among Boston forwards over the last three years, behind the usual suspects of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and David Pastrnak.

And over the last three seasons, the 5-foot-10 center has averaged 1.73 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five play, which ranks as the 101st-most among NHL forwards with at least 1,500 minutes player over the last three seasons. That’s more than Gabriel Landeskog, Jakub Voracek, Bobby Ryan, David Backes, and even Henrik Sedin. And applying the same math we did to those power-play point leaders -- averaging out the salaries of the five skaters directly above and below Spooner -- and the average salary of Spooner’s range in that regard sits at $3.67 million per season.

Spooner is making less than that on his 2017-18 deal.

Using that same statistical filter (forwards with at least 1,500 minutes over the last three years) but under an all-situation basis, Spooner is one of 28 NHL forwards to average at least one primary assist per 60 minutes of play. He’s tied with Taylor Hall in that stat, .01 behind John Tavares, and just .02 behind the likes of Ryan Johansen. Those players have an average salary of over $5 million per season, with massive paydays coming for Johansen this summer and a mega deal coming Tavares' way in 2018.

Again, Spooner is coming in at almost half of that next season.

Of course, it’s unfair to realistically suggest that Spooner is on the same level as the majority of these players. He's not even close when you look at the total package and those players' pedigrees. But it’s equally insulting to suggest that he’s somehow been this blackhole that’s prevented the club from achieving their goals or providing offense. The raw numbers alone tell you that Spooner has been worth it, and that he’ll more than likely be worth it for the Bruins even with a seemingly substantial raise next season.

But Spooner needs to be better, and he knows that.

It’s clear that last year was seemingly the rock bottom of his Boston tenure -- which is saying a lot given the twists and turns of his time here -- and it’s obvious that Bruce Cassidy is an ally of his and will give him another chance, especially after just one disappointment with Spooner during his run as the head coach. And if he can become a more complete player, which has seemingly always been the request from the Bruins, and in his natural position, then the Bruins will be a better club. They’ll need that to happen, too, as their third line was a trainwreck last season, and truly limited the club, especially when David Krejci was lost to injury in the playoffs.

And at the same time, Spooner is going to have his share of battles for that third line center spot. The Bruins like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, while Backes, Riley Nash, Sean Kuraly and Austin Czarnik could be considered for that role as well should they develop chemistry with their linemates and outplay Spooner come training camp.

It will be interesting to see how he approaches that challenge next season, too, as he seemingly lost that battle for the third line job last season without ever fighting for it in camp, and how Spooner’s best days with the Bruins came when he was perceived to be on his ‘last chance’ with the organization late in the 2014-15 season.

But barring an unlikely jump from somebody out of camp, the Bruins are still going to likely need his left-shot to roam along the wall of their top power-play unit next season.

Meaning they’ll get their money’s worth -- and then some -- on this one-year gamble.

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