Let the Ryan Spooner sweepstakes begin.
Ontario Hockey League suitors started lining up almost as quickly as the news broke that Peterborough’s star centre had asked the Petes for a trade.
“Ryan had just felt it was time for a fresh start,” Spooner’s agent Murray Kuntz said Monday night. “It’s something we had been talking about for a couple weeks now. He’s been through a rebuild for two straight years now (in Peterborough) and it’s gotten to a point where it looks like it’s going in the same direction, so he just felt it was time to move on.”
The Petes (4-11-0-1) are tied for last place in the league with the Barrie Colts (4-12-1-0), who are rebuilding after going to the OHL final last season. Peterborough was positioned to be a contender in the Eastern Conference with the likes of Spooner, a second-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins in June, Nashville Predators first-round pick Austin Watson and reigning CHL rookie of the year Matt Puempel. But with the off-season jettisoning of long-time general manager Jeff Twohey and head coach Ken McRae, something seems to have been lost in translation with rookie general manager Dave Reid and new coach Mike Pelino.
And while Spooner’s camp is saying they’ve parted on “good terms” with the Petes, the feeling might not be so mutual.
“If this organization is doing its utmost to get the best out of each player and some players don't want to make that commitment then they may end up wanting to take the easy way out. That's what it is for me in this case, for sure, with Ryan," Pelino told the Peterborough Examiner on Monday night. "I think he felt it was going to be more of a walk in the park for him in terms of the games and practices and stuff. He wanted to be able to dazzle with his offensive abilities, which he has got, but I think, personally, he's making a decision which ultimately is not going to be in his best interest."
Calls left for Reid were not immediately returned.
In many cases a trade can be facilitated quietly behind the scenes while the player is still playing, keeping his value intact and his team in a position of strength. However, according to Kuntz, who also represents Watson and Petes rookie Slater Koekkoek, Reid told the players during a team meeting last week that anyone wanting a trade would be sent home.
“That was what we were left with,” said Kuntz of Spooner’s return to his native Ottawa. “It wasn’t something that was Ryan’s decision -- that was put to all the kids last week.”
He says for the time being his other clients playing in Peterborough have no intentions of leaving, though that hasn’t stopped other players like defenceman Chris Buonomo from also asking out of the situation.
“I do know there are at least two or three other kids who have asked for trades,” said Kuntz without divulging any names. “I think as a team they know they’ve got to get things turned around. The one thing is that Dave Reid is a very positive and upbeat person. I know he had a meeting with the team (Monday) and from the sounds of it, they’re still pretty upbeat. Hopefully they can parlay this trade into some assets that can help them right away.”
Spooner, who leads the Petes with 10 goals and nine assists in 14 games this season, has already presented the Petes with a handful of teams he’d like to play for, since his junior contract comes with a no-trade clause. But since they’re the one initiating the process, Kuntz says the last thing they want to do is handcuff Reid’s potential trade partners.
“What we gave them is fair, it’s not two or three teams – it’s a decent-sized list and from the sounds of it, (Reid) is pretty confident he can get something done,” said Kuntz, who added the list was weighted slightly more towards the Eastern Conference because of Spooner’s roots in the nation’s capital.
And if playing for a contender is a priority for Spooner, one would have to believe the Memorial Cup host Mississauga Majors, currently ranked No. 2 in the CHL, would have to be at the top of that list.
“I wouldn’t say top on the list, but they’re definitely on the list,” said Kuntz.
The question however, is whether or not the Majors would be interested in Spooner given that Windsor general manager Warren Rychel has now officially put two-time Memorial Cup champions, defenceman Ryan Ellis and forward Zack Kassian up for trade. A deal to bring either of the OHL veterans to Mississauga would make more sense from the Majors perspective than a trade for Spooner, who is 18 and a year younger.
In the meantime, Spooner says he’s still eager to suit up for Team OHL in the Super Series game against Russia next Monday in Sudbury, where he’ll try to catch the eye of Team Canada brass to earn an invite to world junior selection camp.
“I’ll still be playing,” said Spooner in a brief chat with Yahoo! Sports on Monday night.
The longer he sits out, however, the more difficult it will be for him to stay on Canada’s radar when it comes time for Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast to make his recommendations to coach Dave Cameron and company. Still, Kuntz is hoping the decision to leave the Petes won’t affect his client’s world junior aspirations.
“I think anybody who takes a step back and looks at the reasons behind this, it’s not like Ryan is a problem kid or is being moved for the wrong reasons,” said Kuntz. “Anyone who takes the time to look at what has happened here – Ryan has been a part of the Petes for two years, two years of rebuilding and now he’s looking forward to being part of a contender.”
Sunaya Sapurji is the Junior Hockey Editor at Yahoo! Sports.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org