Resolving the Rangers Spooner/Namestnikov debate
With a season that saw the Rangers clean house for a bunch of picks and prospects, it also saw two established NHL forwards join the club. Both players, who are restricted free agents come July 1st, have been brought up in discussions regarding whether the club should re-sign or possibly trade them for younger assets.
Ryan Spooner, who was acquired from Boston in the Rick Nash trade, lit up the scoreboard for the Blueshirts the minute he threw on the sweater. The 26-year-old playmaker surprised fans by his productivity, as he ended up registering 16 points in 20 games with the Blueshirts. Spooner, who was never considered a top-six forward, has put up as many as 49 points in a full season for Boston since entering the league in 2013. Spooner showed that he was capable of being versatile, as the forward found himself playing the wing, center and got some love on the power play.
Rangers fans see Spooner, if he returns to the club playing the wing. It makes sense for a club that expects their two young prospects, Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, to play up the middle come next season. With his last contract coming in at a shade above $2.8 million, his next contract is sure to be in the same ballpark as that number, which is easy on the pockets of Jeff Gorton and company. Spooner’s ability to play wherever needed on whatever line, including the power play and penalty kill, makes him an all-around good guy to have on a team where that versatility is needed.
Vladislav Namestnikov is another player which the Rangers acquired in the deadline deal with the Lightning that saw Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller heading south. In their huge trade with Tampa Bay, Namestnikov was the only established NHLer that the Rangers saw come to them in the deal. Prior to being traded, Namestnikov was setting career highs in goals and assists. Of course, many attribute those career marks from being on a line with the two best players on the Lightning in Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Namestnikov put up 44 points over 62 games before coming to the Blueshirts, where he finished the season only putting up four points over 19 games. In comparison to Spooner, the results lacked on the scoresheet for Namestnikov, which questions what Namestnikov can actually bring to the table when he’s playing alongside two superstars.
What Namestnikov brings to the table is highly noticeable, however. His speed and skill is present whenever he’s on the ice, which shows that his potential numbers aren’t a fluke. Namestnikov, like Spooner, is a restricted free agent and could be demanding more of a raise than Spooner. Namestnikov’s last contract came in at a shade under $2 million, and with the numbers he put up in Tampa, many believe that his asking price won’t be worth for the Rangers to take a risk on him.
The two players seem to have crossed up Rangers fans this offseason, and it feels as if the Rangers need to choose one or the other to bring back for 2018. This is not to say that it’s impossible for the Rangers to sign both of these players, it just seems likely that we might see one walk come this summer. On a team that will have its fair share of young players getting their shot, having Spooner or Namestnikov skating alongside them certainly won’t hurt.
When these trades were made, there was a reason that Jeff Gorton wanted Spooner and Namestnikov as the only players that had any NHL experience. Both of these guys can put points on the board are are flexible in terms of positioning, with both being able to play either center or wing, as well as on special teams. Whether or not we see one, both, or neither of these guys in a Rangers sweater next season is unknown, but it seems to have fans clashing heads when comparing who they’d rather have on the squad come October.