Jared Spurgeon’s name is an interesting entry into the offseason rumour mill. On the one hand, he’s just 25 years old, a right shot and an excellent young player. On the other hand, at 5’9” and 176 pounds, he was the smallest defender in the entire NHL to play more than five games last season.
Would Edmonton be a good fit, or should his size scare them off?
Where This Started
Spurgeon-to-Edmonton is a possibility that has been discussed by two prominent hockey writers in recent days. The Journal’s Jim Matheson kicked the discussion off in a recent column:
Chiarelli, who has never had trouble with small defencemen (see Torey Krug and Brad Marchand in Boston), should be making a strong pitch for Tyler Ennis’s best buddy Jared Spurgeon, a solid No. 3 National Hockey League defenceman with strong possession numbers.
And Fletcher should be asking about winger Nail Yakupov because Chiarelli may not be married to the young Oilers as former GM Craig MacTavish was.
Would Chiarelli at least entertain that, most likely asking for a sweetener because Yakupov has more cachet as a first overall draft pick? Maybe.
On Saturday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune included a lengthy summary of the possibility in a piece, acknowledging both that the possibility made a level of sense for both teams and that he’d discussed it at length with Matheson over email. He’s careful to frame the discussion as speculative in nature, adding that the Wild might not even be interested in Yakupov. But the key point was his assessment of Spurgeon’s availability:
As I wrote in my end-of-the-year analysis, I think the writing is on the wall that defenseman Jared Spurgeon gets traded this summer or next … I just don’t see how the Wild can make the math work even though the organization has immense respect for the right-shot Spurgeon, one of the team’s best two-way, mobile defensemen.
We can leave the return alone for a moment and focus on the key question: Does Spurgeon make sense for Edmonton?
Does Spurgeon Make Sense for Edmonton?
Yes, I think he does.
Matheson cites Spurgeon’s strong possession numbers and says that Spurgeon is “a better player today than Schultz is.” He’s right on both counts. Spurgeon is the rare 5’9” defenceman who can play top-four minutes for a very good team, as he has for the Wild over the last few years.
Spurgeon is capable against tough competition. Over the last two years, only Ryan Suter is clearly ahead of him on the Wild blue line in terms of level of opponent; he’s neck-and-neck with Jonas Brodin in that category and clear of No. 4 Marco Scandella. Using War-on-Ice.com’s metric (based on the average time on ice of a player’s opponents) Spurgeon has been playing opposition comparable to what Jeff Petry and Mark Fayne played last season.
Spurgeon doesn’t need careful sheltering in terms of where he plays, either. He does start more shifts in the offensive zone than the defensive end (52% to 48% over the last two seasons) but he’s pretty close to break-even in that regard.
The Wild have been exceptional when Spurgeon is on the ice. He leads Minnesota’s blue line in pretty much every shot metric; over the last two seasons the Wild have taken 53.3 percent of all unblocked shot attempts when he’s on the ice. The disparity grows even wider if we look solely at goals; in an average hour with Spurgeon on the ice Minnesota has out-scored its opposition by a 2.58-to-1.86 margin over the last two seasons.
Unsurprisingly, Spurgeon plays on the power play, where he has scored a little less than Justin Schultz, albeit in a primarily second-unit role. The real surprise is that he averaged more than two minutes per game on the penalty kill last season (seven seconds more than Ryan Suter), a penalty kill which just happened to lead the NHL in efficiency. I don’t know if there’s higher praise for a 5’9” defenceman than saying that he’s a core member of the best penalty kill in the league; it says a lot about who Spurgeon is as a player.
Outside of size, Spurgeon does pretty much everything. He makes a good outlet pass and has strong overall skill with the puck. He’s extremely intelligent, both knowing when to pinch offensively and where to be in the defensive end. As one might expect given his size, skating is one of his strengths.
Spurgeon would be a very strong addition to the Oilers’ blue line and the best two-way defenceman on the roster immediately. Looking at the players on the way on the left side, he’d be a long-term fit, too; a partner like Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom would bring the elements that Spurgeon lacks in terms of size in the crease. Even at 5’9”, it would make a lot of sense for the Oilers to be interested if Minnesota decides it can’t afford him.
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