BOSTON, MA -- It has not been a secret in Boston that since the end of last season, the Bruins have looked into moving forward Ryan Spooner for either a goal-scoring forward or a veteran defenseman.
In a season that has seen the injury bug take a bite out of the Bruins on a regular basis, Spooner has seen action in 36 of the team's 37 games. However, with the recent return of forwards David Pastrnak and Frank Vatrano from injury, TFP has learned from sources close to the situation that Spooner is expecting to be traded before the end of this season.
A trade is not yet imminent and it is unclear where trade discussions currently stand between the Bruins and other clubs. Spooner has not requested a trade.
For most of the season, Spooner has skated on the wing instead of playing his natural center position. He has played with a variety of the team's forwards scoring five goals and assisting on 11 others for 16 points.
The 24-year-old forward has been a member of the Boston organization since the 2010 NHL Entry Draft when the Bruins chose him in the second-round (45th overall). When selected, Spooner possessed outstanding speed and offensive skills from the center position. He had amassed 259 points on 113 goals and 146 assists in 230 total games with Peterborough, Kingston, and Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League.
Spooner progressed to Boston's American Hockey League affiliate in Providence where he continued to show scoring prowess. Between 2010 and 2015, the Ottawa native compiled 37 goals along with 96 assists totaling 133 points in 147 games.
Based on those numbers, expectations for Spooner were very high in Boston. Perhaps, a little too high.
Following Boston's final game before the Holiday break versus the Hurricanes in Carolina last week, a game in which the 24-year-old forward registered one goal and one assist, Spooner had totaled 15 points on five goals and 10 assists for the season. Two of his goals and five of his points have come on the powerplay. He has one game-winner, which was an overtime goal.
His career totals are 26 goals and 68 assists for 94 points in 172 NHL games. Not bad numbers by any meansm, but more is expected from a second-round draft pick, especially one who has played in the NHL for four-plus seasons.
This year, Spooner's plus/minus is a minus-3. He is minus-10 for his career and for a coaching staff that emphasizes defense first, Spooner's commitment to defense has been an issue during his stay in Boston.
Spooner has all the skill and speed necessary to be a productive player in the NHL. He is more comfortable at center than on the wing and with an abundance of centermen in Boston, it does not look like Spooner will be moved to the middle any time soon. Perhaps the time has come for a change of scenery where he can center a second or third line on a team that has an opening for one and in doing so, become the player of which he is fully capable.
The question is, what return would satisfy Bruins general manager Don Sweeney?
Realistically, a player of Spooner's ilk could net a serviceable veteran, or a young, third line forward or a fifth or sixth defenseman.
The next question is, which team would be a candidate to be a trading partner with Sweeney?
Two teams that immediately come to mind are the New York Islanders and the Colorado Avalanche. Neither team is enjoying the kind of season that was expected and ironically (not really), each team has spent the last several weeks scouting Bruins games at TD Garden and when Boston has been on the road.
Other Eastern Conference teams have scouted the Bruins but it customary for teams within the same conference to keep an eye on each other, not to mention, those are teams that are at, or near, the top of the conference and are not actively seeking a trade.
Of course, the all-important salary cap must be taken into consideration in any and all trade discussions. Boston, according to CapFriendly.com, is presently $5.7 million under the cap. Spooner is in the final year of a two-year contract. His salary is $1.1 million with a cap hit of $950,000.
According to those who are in the know, the handwriting is on the wall for Spooner and he knows it. It is just a matter of when will he leave Boston and whose uniform will he wear when it is all said and done.
Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.