The deal is fresh, but on the surface, it’s two teams simply swapping struggling players. Ryan Strome played a total of 259 minutes in 18 games with the Oilers this season and he managed just one goal and one assist. It was an ugly start for Strome, who carried a cap hit of $3.1 million until the end of next season.
But enough about the old guy. What about the new guy? Let’s take a look at what the Oilers are getting in Ryan Spooner.
He was drafted by Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins in the second round (45th overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft. In 289 NHL games since then, Spooner has scored 46 goals to go with 114 assists. He also drew into four playoff games for the Bruins and scored two points in those games.
Similar to Strome, Spooner is off to a rough start this season and has been healthy scratched by Rangers Head Coach David Quinn multiple times. When in the lineup, the 26-year-old has played 202 minutes this season with the Rangers and posted one goal and one assist in that time. On the surface, he and Ryan Strome have had identical seasons.
Spooner is shooting just 4.2% this season, which is significantly lower than his career shooting percentage of 8.3%. He has generated 16 scoring chances, which is 11 lower than what Strome has done at even strength this season. Ten of Strome’s chances were considered “high-danger” while only two of Spooner’s were.
This year with the Rangers, Spooners most common linemates were Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider. If he takes Strome’s spot in the lineup, it’s safe to say he’ll have lower quality linemates in Milan Lucic and whoever happens to be playing the right side.
I’m not sure it’s a lock that Spooner returns to the middle of the ice though. So far this year it’s been Kevin Hayes handling the centre ice duties while Spooner played on the wing. There’s a chance the Oilers value Spooner more as a winger and give the third line centre spot to either Jujhar Khaira or Cooper Marody.
Throughout his career, he’s had success both at centre and on the wings, so I think there could be a bit of a feeling out process between Spooner and the coaching staff before they find his ideal fit.
Spooner split last season between the Bruins and Rangers and posted 41 points in 59 games. His career high is 49 points in 80 games which he got in 2015-16 with the Bruins.
After being dealt to the Rangers at last years deadline, he started producing at the best rate of his career. He notched 16 points in 20 games. He had this success mainly with Kevin Hayes and a rotating cast of right wingers which included Mats Zuccarello, Jesper Fast, and Pavel Buchnevich.
Of those 16 points, 14 of them came at even-strength. He also played 34 minutes on the powerplay with the Rangers last season. He shot the puck just eight times and grabbed two assists with the man advantage.
The Bruins used him more on the powerplay than New York did. In his four and a half seasons in Boston, he played the third most minutes on their powerplay. In that time, he had a points/60 of 4.47, which is on par with what someone like David Krejci was producing. Right now on the Oilers, a 4.47 PP points/60 would put him fourth behind McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins.
He was a solid powerplay option for the Bruins and I’d suggest he could help the Oilers second unit much more than Strome did.
An interesting part of this deal is that both players have spent significant time throughout their careers playing with Milan Lucic.
Between this season and last, Strome and Lucic played 354 even-strength minutes together. In that time they had a 52% ‘Corsi for’ and a ‘goals for percentage’ of just 40%. In their time together, they were on the ice for just 10 even-strength goals.
Spooner and Lucic played 292 even-strength minutes together between 2012-13 and 2015-16. In that time, they had a 51% ‘corsi for’ to go with a 59% ‘goals for percentage’. They scored 13 even-strength goals together.
The important thing to remember is that it’s far from a lock that Spooner plays with Lucic since he hasn’t played a lot of centre lately. The Rangers almost always had him on the wing. There’s a chance we see Spooner ride shotgun with either Nugent-Hopkins or McDavid, but if we do see him take over Strome’s role as the third centre, the fact he’s familiar with Lucic should help the transition.
An important detail of this transaction is the contract. Ryan Spooner is owed $4.0 million for this year as well as 2019-20, which is 900k more than what Ryan Strome makes. The Rangers are evening that up by retaining exactly 900k of Spooners deal. That evens the money. So the money is a wash.
One important detail to remember is that Strome is an RFA when his current deal expires while Spooner is a UFA when his contract is up.
So the Oilers dealt a struggling centre, who could play wing and is under team control after next season, for a struggling winger who can also play centre and is an unrestricted free agent after 2019-20. This is purely a hockey trade and it will be tough to judge until after this season when we see how each player responds to their change of scenery.