Fun with semantics: Did Jason Spezza request a trade?

Ken Campbell
Jason Spezza

One thing in l’Affaire Jason Spezza that has become clear is that Spezza is no Dany Heatley. What isn’t so clear is whether or not Spezza actually asked for a trade out of Ottawa. Senators GM Bryan Murray maintains that Spezza did, those close to the player say that isn’t exactly the case.

According to sources close to Spezza, the scenario went down a little differently than it’s being portrayed. In his exit interview with Murray, Spezza laid his cards on the table. He told Murray that if the Senators were intent on a quick rebuild and were in the acquisition mode in terms of bringing in top-end talent, he wanted to be a part of it. But if the plan was to tear down the roster and rebuild the team with young players and draft picks, it might be best for the organization to maximize his value now and that he would not stand in the way of a deal involving him, provided it was not to one of the 10 teams in his modified no-trade clause.

But at no time did he make any demands, according to those close to Spezza. He loves Ottawa and would have been happy to stay. He likes Murray and has had a good relationship with him and the feelings are mutual. Murray would probably prefer not to deal Spezza, but sees that the player will be an unrestricted free agent in a year and knows the best thing for the organization would be to get return for him now rather than as a rental at the trade deadline if the Senators are out of the playoff picture.

Which leads us to believe that the full-on rebuild is on in Ottawa. There’s no way the Senators would trade a player of Spezza’s talent level if they were trying to add pieces for a legitimate run at the playoffs. Spezza, in fact, would have welcomed the chance to stay in Ottawa under such circumstances.

And why is this important? Because we’re talking about a player’s legacy here. Call it semantics, but there is an enormous difference between demanding a trade and welcoming the possibility of one. The former paints Spezza as a whiny, pampered millionaire who isn’t getting his way and wants to take his talents somewhere else. And what’s worse, he’s demanding a trade and wants to pick his destination.

It also, according to Murray’s characterization, makes Spezza look like a weak leader of men. Discuss that one amongst yourselves. Murray said one of the reasons Spezza wants out of Ottawa is that he’s tired of the scrutiny that comes with being the captain of the Senators. “He just feels the finger pointing or whatever…he hasn’t been able to lead the way here and it’s time to try something different,” Murray told reporters in Ottawa Thursday.

Murray said the Spezza situation isn’t, “quite as extreme as Dany Heatley. Dany came in and basically said, ‘I’m out of here and Jason hasn’t really done that. He’s come in and asked if we would consider (trading him).”

Spezza is a wonderfully talented player who is gracious and as decent a human being as you’re going to meet in the game. But there is something to the fact that he might be better suited as a very good support player and there’s nothing wrong with that. Mike Modano, considered one of the greatest American-born players in hockey history, didn’t win a Cup in Dallas until players such as Joe Nieuwendyk, Guy Carbonneau and Mike Keane were brought in to show the way.

That’s why speculated destinations such as Anaheim or St. Louis make so much sense. The Ducks have Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to shoulder the burden of pressure and leadership and St. Louis has David Backes to take that role.

There is obviously no turning back for Jason Spezza and the Ottawa Senators now. The Spezza era is over in Ottawa and there is no doubt he will be dealt before the June 27 draft. Murray might get the package of a player, first-round pick and a prospect for Spezza, perhaps he won’t. But the deal must be made now. The two sides have gone too far down the road to turn back now. Everyone realizes that there is no way Spezza can return to the Ottawa Senators now and that the best thing for everyone involved is that he is dealt.