HERSHEY, Pa. – The Washington Capitals acquired Daniel Sprong at the trade deadline on February 24, 2020 and unfortunately only got to play five games with the Hershey Bears before the season was suspended. The pause ultimately became permanent after Hershey’s last game on March 8, meaning that Bears fans only briefly saw Sprong with the club. Despite the short stint, Sprong enters what should hopefully be a standard summer offseason for the hockey world as a restricted free agent.
Sprong was acquired in exchange for longtime Hershey defender Christian Djoos, who was a big boost to the Bears in returning from Washington in 2019-20. Djoos had a brief and impressive stint with Anaheim, enough to earn another contract for next season (signed earlier after the hockey world paused its season). Sprong came to Hershey and had an impressive stat line in a short span with the Bears, tallying a goal and five assists as he crossed over the Hershey/Wilkes-Barre rivalry. In particular, his debut game in Hershey saw him put up a goal and two assists over the Baby Penguins.
It’s fairly unusual to have a player remain a restricted free agent in this situation, as Sprong’s two-year deal (originally signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins) expires after this season. Although the Washington organization didn’t get a great look within their own organization at the 23-year-old, Sprong would be a great addition to a deepening prospect pool within the organization.
It’s hard to believe Sprong is still so young, having made his Wilkes-Barre debut back in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. Oddly enough, he played for Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre in 2016, but not at all for either team the following year. He already has a hefty amount of NHL experience between Pittsburgh and Anaheim.
Sprong hasn’t quite achieved NHL success, having been twice dealt by his two prior clubs. He could return to his 2017-18 form with the Bears, a season in which his services for rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton helped the Penguins get the better of the Bears during a tough year for the Chocolate and White. Sprong scored 65 points in 65 games in 2017-18, proving he can be a valuable asset at the AHL level as well as a strong potential NHL call-up if the need arises.
Washington should be keen to capitalize (no pun intended) on their investment, provided the price is right. Shedding salary could be a big part of Washington’s offseason plans, and with Sprong’s contract from his past deal at $750,000, he could be an easier player to retain.
Tyler Lewington wins it for Hershey in overtime!!!! pic.twitter.com/eeEhoD8yl2— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) January 19, 2020
It makes plenty of sense to retain Sprong, as the forward is a proven scorer at the AHL level and never quite got the chance to demonstrate it as a member of the Bears. Five games is too small of a sample size to be conclusive, despite the solid numbers, but giving Sprong the chance in 2020-21 that was lost this year seems like a winning proposition for all parties.
Sprong could prove to be a good call-up option for the Capitals or, at the very least, an asset to the Bears to offset a potential call-up if it happens. It’s unusual to have a good talent like Sprong available to retain, and it cuts down on the amount the team needs to consider in free agency.
It would be a huge boost for the Bears to have Sprong for the entire season in 2020-21, as the skilled forward fills one of Hershey’s few needs on the right wing side. Having a player with a 32-goal season under his belt is a huge asset for any team at the AHL level. As long as the terms of the deal work well, Sprong should be back in the organization next season to help the Bears contend for the Calder Cup.
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