Chuck Fletcher answered an important question that’s been surrounding the Minnesota Wild for months now by signing defenceman Jared Spurgeon to a four-year contract extension worth $20.75 million. The Wild now have the brunt of their defensive core locked up for the foreseeable future as Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, and now Spurgeon locked up until at least 2020.
With the 25-year old Spurgeon set to hit RFA status this summer, the Wild were faced with either opening up the bank and adding him to an already expensive D group, or dealing him to another team for younger and cheaper assets. Clearly they view him as an integral part of the team’s future, as his cap hit will make him the 34th highest paid defenceman in the league next season. So, was signing worth Minnesota’s money?
Yes, yes it was. I think Jared Spurgeon is the epitome of a really good defenceman who flies quietly under the radar. Maybe it’s because he plays with bigger, more recognizable names like Ryan Suter, or maybe it’s because not many people care about the Wild. Another reason could be the fact that his most impressive numbers are underlying ones that aren’t really valued by the average, casual fan.
His basic boxcar stats don’t really jump out off the page, which is probably a huge reason why he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. This season, in 31 games, he’s scored four goals and 12 assists, good for 0.52 points-per-game, which is the best of his career. In 2014-15, he scored nine goals and 16 assists in 66 games, and in 2013-14 he scored five goals and 21 assists. Over those seasons, he also averaged around 22:30 minutes of ice time per game. So pretty solid numbers at a glance, but nothing incredible.
When you dig deeper, you start to see the value he begins to the table. Take a look at the numbers Spurgeon has put up over the past few years on the HERO chart above. They’re incredible. His individual production and possession impact on his linemates match that of elite names like Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, and Victor Hedman. Also, only six defencemen have a better goals for percentage at even strength over the past three seasons than Spurgeon does. This is largely because, while producing offence at a high level, Spurgeon is also an elite scoring chance suppressor. In that time frame, he’s allowed 22.65 scoring chances against per 60 minutes at even strength, which is 14th among defencemen who have played at least 2000 minutes.
So, yeah, long story short, Spurgeon is a damn good player, his team is much better when he’s on the ice than they are when he isn’t, and the Wild did a smart thing signing him even if it does result in a financial headache.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, the Wild have eight forwards, six defencemen, and one goalie signed at a combined cap hit of roughly $63 million. Obviously we don’t know where the cap is going to end up, but that’ll give them somewhere between $9 and $12 million to spend on the rest of their roster. That isn’t a hell of a lot of money, especially considering Jason Zucker, Tyler Graovac, Matt Dumba, and Darcy Kuemper are all in need of new RFA deals this summer, so the Wild are going to have to get creative to fill out the rest of their roster after those four are signed.
Regardless, the reality of having good players is paying a high price for their services, and Spurgeon is a good player and he’s being paid as he should be. Sure, it may be a pain for the Wild to flesh out and improve their roster this summer, but they’ve got an excellent group of top four defencemen locked up for the foreseeable future which is something to be excited about, and Spurgeon is a key part of the team’s success right now and in the future.