We’re right in the middle of summer, so it’s clearly time for a brief history lesson in role-player hockey contract negotiations.

In 1999, Dmitri Khrstich was coming off a nice little season for the Bruins. He put up a career-high 71 points, which was second on the team behind Jason Allison’s 76. He even earned a spot in the All-Star game, playing for the “World” team opposite Ray Bourque and North America.

Following the end of his contract, he was eligible for arbitration. The team took him to the table, the arbiter found in his favor and he was awarded a $2.8 million contract.

And that’s when then-General Manager Harry Sinden walked away from the deal. This was before the salary cap era, but Sinden was notoriously tight in his player valuations. He had taken his captain Bourque to the mattresses five years earlier, he wasn’t about to pay a forward on the verge of 30 more than he thought he was worth.

All this comes to mind with the news that Ryan Spooner has applied for arbitration for the coming year with the Bruins.

He’s coming off of a two-year, $1.9 million contract, and he’s looking for a raise. He has a lot of raw skills. He’s also spent more time than not playing at a totally underwhelming level in the NHL, and the idea that he’s earned a raise should raise some eyebrows.

Khrstich, at least, had a decent track record coming into that 98-99 season. He’d never match those numbers again in three more years in the NHL, but by the end of his career he’d hit 50 points in a season seven times and contributed during Boston’s two-round stay in the playoffs. He was a Top 6 forward by any definition.

Spooner — despite multiple opportunities, including stretches where top centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were injured and someone needed to step up — has not shown the kind of consistency that a playoff team would want.

As critical as his former coach Claude Julien may have been about Spooner’s defensive game, current coach Bruce Cassidy was openly critical of Spooner’s efforts in the offensive zone, too often playing passively when the Bruins needed offense against Ottawa’s tight defense. It wound up costing him a spot in the lineup in a period when the team was already hurting offensively, and Cassidy didn’t hold back in an interview with 98.5 FM after the Bruins were eliminated.

Though he was drafted by Peter Chiarelli, there’s likely some sense of ownership within the organization for Spooner. He was drafted in 2010 and the Bruins have been overly patient in waiting for him to develop. He had quick stints in 2012-13 and again in 13-14 before sticking at the end of 14-15. In the two full seasons since, he put up 49 points in 2015-16 before regressing to 39 last year. He’s a minus-15 for his career and the advanced Corsi and Fenwick numbers aren’t any kinder to him.

The truth of it is that Spooner’s greatest value probably passed about three or four years ago, when he was still a prospect. His potential then had him at the center of plenty of trade rumors, and had he been dealt, he might’ve netted a return greater than what he’s given the team since.

This is a player who has had every opportunity to land as a viable center with the team. He arguably should have been left unprotected in the recent expansion draft, which might’ve preserved Colin Miller for another year. And he might still be valuable in a trade before his arbitration date comes.

If the current situation holds and Spooner wins his case, the Bruins would likely suck it up and take the minor ding to their cap space for a year. But it wouldn’t be the worst thing to see them walk away. They’ve left bigger deals on the table in the past.

Nick Tavares' column appears Sundays in The Standard-Times and at SouthCoastToday.com. He can be reached at nick@nicktavares.com