The Minnesota Wild recognized that Jared Spurgeon is an elite defenseman in the NHL. That’s why they handed him a lucrative seven-year extension back in 2019. Not only did his contract carry the richest AAV in franchise history ($7.575 million), which Kirill Kaprizov has since surpassed, but it’s the 17th highest among NHL defensemen. There was no hesitation when they extended Spurgeon, 32, despite the age-related risk on the backend of the deal.
Conversely, the national media took a long time to realize his worth. However, the usage of hockey analytics in the public sector continues to grow exponentially, which is a significant reason behind Spurgeon’s rise in the hockey world.
But some people still don’t consider him among the league’s best. When the organization bought out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, they knew the pending cap troubles would be challenging. It also means they have to become creative when constructing the roster for the next few years. One or both of Matt Dumba and Kevin Fiala will almost certainly become a cap casualty this summer.
However, one local outlet suggested trading Spurgeon to relieve cap troubles, which caused chaos among fans, and rightfully so. Trading Spurgeon wouldn’t benefit the Wild in any way, and finding a replacement for him is impossible. To start with, it would be more damaging than the current cap situation they’re in.
Spurgeon has been instrumental to the Wild’s success this season and is easily their best defenseman. Yes, he again has dealt with injuries this season, but he’s arguably having a career year in the second season of his deal. That’s excellent news for the organization, especially considering it’s his first season without Suter, and he still has five years remaining on the contract.
Spurgeon’s two-way profile has been remarkable this season. Along with his dominant even-strength presence, he’s been a solid contributor to the power play. Not only does Spurgeon have a 56 percent expected goals rate, but he has a whopping 71 percent actual goals rate at 5-on-5, too. According to Evolving Hockey, he’s now ninth in the league among defenders with two Expected Wins Above Replacement.
The Wild were able to win when he was out, but that speaks to their depth. Many teams would be hurting if their top defenseman was out for an extended period due to an injury.
When he’s healthy, Spurgeon has formed a strong partnership with Alex Goligoski. The Wild are dominant with the pair on the ice, controlling the play on both ends of the sheet.
Spurgeon has 20 points in 33 games. Despite the injury that sidelined him for 15 games, he could still surpass his career-high 43 points. Likewise, his 1.72 points-per-60 in all situations ranks 21st in the league among defensemen. If it weren’t for his injury, his value would be unquestioned. He would easily be among the top defensemen in the NHL.
Furthermore, anyone who’s watched Spurgeon for years will be unsurprised to learn he is among the best in the league this season in retrieving the puck in the defensive zone and leading a strong breakout.
From 2017-20, he was in the 85th percentile in controlled exit percentage and the 59th percentile in controlled entries percentage. It further illustrates his mobility and strong puck-moving ability as a shutdown defender. He makes defending the league’s best look easy, especially in his own zone.
Spurgeon’s injuries this season will probably keep him from being a Norris Trophy favorite. But hopefully, he will at least enter the conversation at the end of the season. And if he continues playing as he did in the first half, he should be on track to at least garner some attention. It’s also possible that Spurgeon’s playstyle will always keep him out of the Norris consideration. He doesn’t put up massive point totals and isn’t the flashiest defenseman offensively, which are typically two features found in Norris-winning defensemen.
Regardless, it’s worth highlighting how consistent Spurgeon has been throughout his career. He may be 5’9″ and on the wrong side of 30, so it would be easy to overlook while he’s on the ice. Spurgeon is quite literally the ideal defenseman a team could have because he excels in everything across the board.
Spurgeon’s market value is $10.1 million, according to Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic, meaning that he’s worth significantly more than the $7.575 Minnesota is paying him. There’s no doubt that the Wild’s cap picture will present significant cap challenges over the next three years. But they can move forward with the confidence that Spurgeon should continue to be among the league’s best defensemen.