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Jason Spezza Dilemma: What Should Ottawa Senators Do With Him?

Ryan DavenportContributor IJune 4, 2010

WASHINGTON - MARCH 30:  Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates after scoring in the first period against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on March 30, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Jason Spezza has long been considered a cornerstone of the Ottawa Senators franchise, ever since he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2001.

In his seven seasons spent in Ottawa, Spezza has produced at a reasonably high level, hitting the 85 point plateau three times.

However, playoff success has eluded Spezza, especially in recent years.

Since marching to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007 (only to be beaten handily in five games by Anaheim), Spezza slowly has fallen out of favor with his hometown fans. 

In this Spring's six game loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Spezza posted seven points, but was booed ruthlessly at home.

Spezza is vocally upset by the criticism, to the point at which General Manager Bryan Murray requested they meet to ease the tension. The situation hasn't reached this point yet, but this is beginning to sound eerily similar to the Dany Heatley fiasco of last year.

Spezza had a fantastic second half of the season, helping Ottawa secure a trip back to the playoffs, but was again physically overpowered and intimidated by the 'Pens defense in the clutch.

So, after seven reasonably successful seasons, the question is, what do the Senators do with their prized center now?  

They could keep him on board, and see if he grows into a team leader. The Senators have an aging captain in Daniel Alfredsson (though he is undeniably the team's best player) and a tough, but not overly offensive emotional leader in Mike Fisher.

For the Senators' current roster to succeed, Spezza needs to be a bigger part of the team. It starts with back checking, finishing checks and playing a physical style of hockey that he has stayed away from for most of his career.  

Obviously, trading him is another option, but not one that would come easily.

Spezza has a $7 million price tag, which by the way is higher than Nicklas Backstrom and Ryan Getzlaf (both higher impact players in the minds of most), and he will be difficult to move because of it.

The Senators could really use that extra cash as well, because they need to replace Anton Volchenkov, Matt Cullen and also bolster their offense.  

Ottawa is in a bind.

They are currently tied to a potential franchise player who is at odds with the city's fan base, and have a limited number of plausible options for how to move him.

Spezza's value as a player will be watched closely this season, and if he gets off to a good start I believe he will be moved.

He has an expensive, franchise-player type of salary, when he is more realistically a play making top-two center.

His skill is clearly sublime, but his desire and toughness?

Remains to be seen...

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