Rumours began to swirl this week that Ottawa Senators’ centre Jason Spezza wants out of the nation’s capital.
This after Senators’ general manager Bryan Murray gave an interview with Rogers Sportsnet on June 3rd in which he referred to a conversation he and Spezza had had at the end of the season.
Apparently, Spezza told Murray that he was unhappy about fans giving him a hard time.
Spezza who is a talented offensive forward has the ability to draw fans out of their seats as he executes a nearly impossible manoeuvre to deke a defenseman and pick the corner of the net and score a beautiful goal. Unfortunately, he also has a tendency to make blind back passes and is not known for his defensive prowess.
During the regular season, Spezza is often forgiven for his defensive lapses because of his ability to help win games by scoring and setting up game winning goals. However, in the Stanley Cup playoffs, when fancy dipsy—doodle plays are rarely effective, and a player’s value is measured as much by his ability to prevent a goal as to score one himself, Spezza doesn’t measure up well to fellow Senators like Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher.
Despite the fact that Spezza had 7 points in 6 games in Ottawa's series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, third liners Chris Kelly, Chris Neil, and Jarkko Ruutu received more credit for Ottawa’s ability to compete with the 2009 champs than did Spezza.
Now, whether Spezza is a net asset to the Ottawa Senators is not up for debate: he is. So, if Murray decided to explore trade options for Spezza, he would require a good return.
My feeling is that Murray would not be interested in trading Spezza to a team only interested in unloading some underachieving players of their own. However, there are not many teams that would be willing to give up prime assets for a player with some defensive liabilities.
For a team to be willing to give up something of value for Spezza, the team would have to be in dire need of some goal scoring talent and have the cap space to take on Spezza’s $7 million a year hit for five more years.
The list of teams that fit the bill is pretty short. The Florida Panthers are pretty much the only team that is a prime candidate to acquire a player like Spezza. However, there are rumblings that the Columbus Blue Jackets are ready to make a move to get themselves into the playoffs next year.
Florida has a brand new general manager in Dale Tallon and could be looking to make a splash in his first year in charge.
However, a big trade would have to pay off immediately to maximize the team’s chances of qualifying for the playoffs next year. As such, Tallon would be unlikely to send top talent like Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton or David Booth the other way to Ottawa. And, Ottawa probably isn’t interested in any other player on the Florida roster, with the possible exception of Florida’s top choice in the 2009 NHL entry-draft, defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.
Columbus, on the other hand, could be willing to part with their 4th overall pick in the 2010 NHL entry-draft.
Having said all of this, my feeling is that Spezza isn’t going anywhere. He’ll play the next five years in Ottawa, and Sens fans will just have to keep their fingers crossed that Spezza continues his slow, but steady, improvement playing without the puck.
But, there is a real, if slim, possibility that Spezza could be on the move.
If this happens, my prediction is that it’s to Florida, along with defenseman Brian Lee, in exchange for Kulikov and one of Florida’s 2nd round picks, and Florida’s first pick in 2011.
An Ottawa sports-writer I contacted about the possibility of Spezza being traded endorsed Spezza and Ottawa’s first pick (16th overall), to Columbus for Derick Brassard, Columbus’ first pick (4th overall) and one of Columbus’ 2nd round picks.
These two options might seem like steep prices to pay for Spezza, but I don’t believe that Murray would trade him in a deal with inferior return.
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