The Rangers concluded their offseason plans, at least until the trade market picks up, yesterday by re-signing forward Ryan Spooner to a two-year deal with a $4 million cap hit. This comes one day after the Rangers inked Kevin Hayes to a one-year deal. As always, I have some thoughts.
1. I like the deal on the surface.Spooner is a good middle-six player, but not someone you commit to long-term. The deal is short. It’s cheap. It’s everything you want to see from a rebuilding team. The club isn’t getting up to their eyeballs in bad contracts. Four million for someone who is looking for a next big payday is solid all around.
2. I do not think it is a coincidence that Spooner and Vlad Namestnikov got matching contracts. Both were acquired at the deadline. Both had ups and downs as Rangers. Both are likely fighting each other for long-term plans in New York. When the four first round forwards are ready for prime time, only one of Namestnikov or Spooner will be here, at most.
3. What I do find to be very interesting is that the Rangers have Spooner, Namestnikov, Chris Kreider, Jimmy Vesey, and Jesper Fast all expiring at the end of the 2019-2020 season. If I were a betting man, I’d put money on Jeff Gorton and company banking on the 2020-2021 season as the beginning of the new era of Rangers hockey.
4. Back to Spooner the player, I think he’s a good bet to be a counting stat darling over the next two seasons. He’s likely to get top-six minutes and potentially powerplay time as the rookies adjust. That means more TOI, and more goals and assists that other GMs love to see. If Hayes is primed for a big year this season in a contract year, I’d expect the same from Spooner next season.
5. Assuming Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil make the team on the third line, I think Spooner winds up on the second line with Mats Zuccarello and Hayes. That line can handle tougher minutes, leaving the rookies with Namestnikov to take the easier assignments. If you want the kids to succeed, that’s the way to do it.
6. Of Spooner, Namestnikov, and Hayes, I’m surprised that no one got more than two years. I thought one of them would get three years. But the more I think about it, the more I realize the Rangers are counting on Zibanejad as the 1/2C, and the trio of RFAs this year are stopgaps with trade value. Such is the game. Of the two year guys, I hope it’s Namestnikov that eventually sticks around longer. I think he has more skill than Spooner.
7. Spooner is what he is. A solid middle-six guy who can punch above his weight sometimes. In the end, he doesn’t warrant a bigger deal just yet. Maybe he puts it all together for a year and the Rangers bring in a haul. That’s likely the best case scenario at this point.