As the winds swirl across the Charles river, the trade rumours are beginning to swirl around the NHL once again, and this time it's a Bruin at the sharp end. Ryan Spooner was linked with the Vancouver Canucks on CBC last week as the 2011 Stanley Cup losing finalists try and find a way to kickstart their offensive production. The Canucks are currently playing Michael Chaput on their second line, which tells you all you need to know about their need for a top-six center who can step in and play immediately.
After Ryan Spooner's breakout year and given their need to get a little younger (the Sedins are not in the first flush of youth and while the Nucks forward prospects are deep, there's a slight paucity of NHLers who could step into the role as first or second line C in their absence) it's logical to think that the Canucks might be looking at Spooner as a possible target...he's a player, after all, who has been in demand recently.
The thing with the Canucks looking at Spooner, though, is that it gives the Bruins a ready-made pipeline towards a new avenue for defensive improvement. The conversation with the Canucks is made more interesting still by the fact that Jim Benning has not exactly been backwards in coming forwards when it comes to trade questions...there was talk earlier on in this season, for example, that the Canucks were already willing to throw their 2016 first round pick Olli Juolevi into discussions, mere months after drafting him - not exactly the actions of an organisation that is likely to inspire confidence in their own fans.
If you're an organisation looking to trade with them, however, this is the kind of thing that makes you very interested indeed when you hear that they're sniffing round one of your players. Particularly one that's misfiring and is arguably at the perfect time to sell high.
Then, of course, there is the X-Factor in this deal. The Canucks GM is Jim Benning.
Jim Benning, it is fair to say, is a GM who has had some...unique opinions and tactical ideas since taking over the Canucks. This is a man who not only traded two players AND a 2nd round pick for Brandon Sutter, but also then gave the same Sutter a four-year deal and a pay-rise before he'd played a single game with the franchise and compared him to Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews.
No, really. This is what Benning said on acquiring Sutter, to the Vancouver Sun:
"You win with players like Brandon Sutter. I’m not comparing him to Patrice Bergeron, but when I was in Boston, Bergeron was a great two-way player for us. Look at Jonathan Toews (in Chicago). That’s how you win in the playoffs. When we look at Brandon Sutter and all the things he brings, he’s going to be in our next wave of core players. I believe his best hockey is still ahead of him"
Now, a GM who will mention Brandon Sutter in the same breath as Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews, and offer around a very exciting defensive prospect like Olli Juolevi mere months after trading him, is a man, as the saying goes "with whom one can do business".
The Canucks have Chris Tanev, who is one of the best shutdown defensemen in the NHL. They also have Nikita Tryamkin, who is an incredibly exciting defensive prospect - big, strong and powerful.
Then there is Jake Virtanen, who even Jim Benning probably isn't crazy enough to trade but the organisation somehow can't transport the kit for when on the road.
There is also the aforementioned Juolevi.
The thing with Jim Benning, is that he ABSOLUTELY looks like the kind of person who would have this conversation:
"So, Jim...we hear you want our guy Ryan Spooner. All we want in return is that Nikita Tryamkin kid who plays on your third pair, and a pick or two".
"You only want a guy on my third pair D and a pick for a guy I can play on my top six?! Sold!"
Ryan Spooner is a cheap asset right now, granted. But he is RFA at the end of this season and will no doubt be looking for a fairly significant pay-rise and an increased role in a forward group that has several similar players chomping at the bit to take his spot on the third line. Granted, Tryamkin too is on an RFA deal and will likely be looking for an increased wage next season, but right now it is unlikely to reach the same level as Spooner, and the massive Russian could be worth more long term to the Bruins. There are also players like Jordan Subban, Andrey Pedan, and (if the Bruins are really brave) Juolevi who could at least be thrown into talks with a GM who has, it is fair to say, an erratic way of judging player value.
With the Canucks management hearing ticking clocks every time they look at Henrik Sedin (and Daniel, too) and acutely aware that the time on the Swedish twins' reign over the Canucks top line is much closer to the end than the start, they are looking for solutions, looking for change, and most importantly, seemingly looking for a relatively quick fix in an impatient market.
The Bruins, meanwhile, are fully aware they are in transition, have an asset in Spooner that seems to cycle up and down in value, and have as a potential trade partner a GM who has a history of overpaying for assets that he thinks can help his team.
They also have a little cap space. It's not beyond possibility that a player like Erik Gudbranson or Chris Tanev could be placed on the table by Benning, if he thinks that Spooner could have a big enough effect. Both are good players, but Tanev would be the kind of prize far beyond mere goal-and-assist value. He's one of the best shutdown defensemen in the NHL and very rarely seems to get real recognition for it. The only black mark against him right now is that he's injured, and thus is very unlikely to be in talks, if not impossible. Gudbranson, though, with his deal expiring at the end of the season and moving towards RFA money, could be at least mentioned and thrown in by Benning if he's desperate enough.
Tryamkin and Juolevi, though, are very realistic targets in any Spooner trade with Vancouver, and would provide the kind of long-term boost to the Bruins defense that would far outweigh the short-term effect of losing the forward.
We're not saying straight out "get on the phone, Don"...but what we are saying is that if the caller ID shows Jim Benning any time soon, then the Bruins should not only pick up the phone, but have a very serious conversation indeed.
It could be one of the most profitable conversations, in the long term, that they'll have this season.