When the Hurricanes acquired Jaroslav Spacek’s services from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Tomas Kaberle, not much was thought of the 38-year old defenseman. The only reason he was brought in was to get rid of Kaberle’s
awful contract and he spent most of the year injured, so a lot of people thought that he wasn’t going to provide much value. As it turns out, Spacek proved to be a much bigger help than some had thought and he grew to be a favorite both in the locker room and among the fan-base.
A thirteen-year NHL veteran, Spacek provided a lot of intangibles to the club such as leadership and he was also a good mentor for some of the team’s younger defensemen. These are important qualities for every team to have, so there’s a lot to like about what Spacek brought to the Hurricanes. As for his performance on his, Spacek wasn’t much more than a third-pairing defenseman but he was an effective one. When he was healthy, Spacek did just about everything in his job description as a #5-6 defenseman and was a good contributor to this team, but his age along with injury concerns likely mean that he won’t be in Carolina this coming season. There are a lot of things that will be missed about him but in the end, the role he played was replaceable and the Hurricanes seemed to recognize that.
After the jump, we will take a look at what Spacek brought to the Canes during his short time here and discuss whether or not some team in need of a defenseman could be interested in him.
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Spacek was asked to play on the third-pairing during his time in Carolina and he played that role almost perfectly. He did just about all of the things you could ask from a #5-6 defensemen when you think about it. He was one of the Hurricanes’ best defensemen in terms of controlling possession at even strength, he provided a decent offensive presence with 5 goals and 12 points in 34 games and he was on ice for more even strength goals per 60 minutes than any other Carolina blue-liner. Spacek’s always had a decent shot from the point and we saw him put it to use a few times this season.
Being a third pairing defenseman, Spacek was only used for about 13-16 minutes a game and mainly played in sheltered situations but he managed to be effective whenever he was on the ice. The nice thing about having an experienced guy like him around was that the younger defensemen seemed to be able to learn from him. The one who learned the most from Spacek was Jamie McBain and this was evident with his performance both on and off the ice. Spacek and McBain were the team’s best defense pairing at controlling scoring chances at even strength as the two were a great offensive-minded pairing to use in sheltered situations.
Spacek was almost the perfect defense partner for McBain because the two could be used in protected situations and were good enough to at least keep the puck in the offensive zone and provide a decent amount of scoring on top of that. McBain plays a slightly more aggressive game than Spacek, but both were good enough defensively to not be complete liabilities in the defensive zone and the two were a very effective unit when they were together.
Unfortunately, a solid third-pairing defenseman is Spacek’s ceiling at this point in his career. He is big enough to possibly play the shutdown role but he has never been the best skater and was very slow on his feet this year. There were a few times where opposing teams were able to get a favorable matchup against Spacek and easily maneuver around him for a scoring opportunity or a goal. Kirk Muller knew that Spacek had his limitations and had him play some of the most sheltered minutes on the team. He had the third lowest quality of competition rating among Carolina defensemen and started 58.4% of his even strength shifts in the offensive zone. Ugly things usually happened when he was asked to do more than that.
Spacek has also become very brittle as it seemed like he was always suffering from some kind of injury during his time with Carolina. He is 38 years old, so it’s expected for him to be less durable than others and that was certainly true as Spacek missed 36 total games this season. I am usually less harsh on players who were injured but Spacek’s durability is a major concern. He sustained at least three different injuries that kept him out of the lineup and the fact that he was always hurt limits what he can do as a defenseman. Like I mentioned earlier, Spacek has the size and was able to kill penalties and play more of a shutdown role in the past, but injury and health concerns may have factored into Muller needing to shelter him.
Spacek was in the final year of a three year contract that paid him $3,833,333 per season. In the grand scheme of things, he was overpaid but Carolina did not give him this contract so money is not as big of a concern. They traded for him in exchange for another overpaid player in Kaberle and Spacek was in the final year of his contract, so his deal is much more favorable since it is off the books now.
The Final Word
Spacek is a good player and an awesome teammate but his skill level has diminished quite a bit from what it once was. He could still be a serviceable third pairing defenseman on most teams but with his age and durability issues, it is questionable whether or not he can be much more than that. The signing of Joe Corvo likely means that Spacek will be playing with another team come next season but his performance with Carolina should be enough to earn him a contract somewhere, even if it isn’t in the NHL. He did have problems staying healthy but his on-ice performance was good for the role he played and most of the Carolina players seemed to like having him around, so he definitely brings some value to the table if you’re a team looking for defensive depth.
How did you feel about Spacek’s performance with the Hurricanes this year? If he exceeded your expectations, give him an A. If he performed about as well as you expected, give him a C. If he completely let you down, give him an F. Explain your vote and give us your thoughts on the year Spacek had. Would you like to have him back for another year? Do you think he can be more than a third pairing defenseman? Did all of his injury problems frustrate you? Do you think he will be in the NHL next season?