Bombshell? No, more of a “bombshell.” Jason Spezza has long been attached to trade rumors, so the news he’s demanded a trade out of Ottawa merely makes things official.
For some fans, this is a sad goodbye. Spezza, who turns 31 Friday, ranks second all-time for the franchise in goals, assists and points. He’s been a crucial part of Ottawa’s plans since it drafted him second overall in 2001 (stick tap to Mike Milbury).
But from a cold, calculating, hockey perspective, this is great news for Spezza and the Senators. He gets a new beginning and perhaps a chance to pursue a Cup, depending on where he lands. The Senators relieve themselves of a $7-million cap hit before the season starts and will likely get the best possible return before Spezza commences the final year of his deal. He’d command less as a trade deadline rental and, given how injury-prone he’s proven in recent years, there’s no guarantee he’d be an available chip by next March. Even better for all parties, Spezza’s actual 2014-15 salary is only $4 million.
Should Ottawa pursue a hockey trade or look to, er, reacquire the type of young talent it gave away in the Bobby Ryan deal? We can’t read GM Bryan Murray’s mind, so let’s focus on the other half of the impending swap. Here are five destinations that make sense for Jason Spezza, keeping in mind he can veto trades to 10 teams as part of his modified no-trade clause.
1. Nashville Predators. I’m not the first pundit to suggest Music City as Spezza’s ideal destination, but that doesn’t mean I can’t agree. Sens beat writer and THN Ottawa correspondent Bruce Garrioch listed the Preds as a team after Spezza, and the deal makes too much sense. The Preds have the cap space, Spezza would have instant familiarity with old teammate Mike Fisher, Spezza would fit coach Peter Laviolette’s high-octane system, and Nashville would have its first and only No. 1 pivot since it borrowed Peter Forsberg for an hour.
2. St. Louis Blues. Doug Armstrong doesn’t have to extend Vladimir Tarasenko for another year, leaving Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund as his high-priority restricted free agents to re-sign. Even if that takes $15 million, the Blues should have enough left for Spezza. The main thing they lacked against Chicago in the playoffs was a game-breaking offensive weapon. Imagine Spezza dishing passes to Tarasenko?
3. Anaheim Ducks. Theoretically, if the Ducks are in on Ryan Kesler, they can be in on Spezza. His cap hit isn’t a problem since it expires next summer and Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are off the books (we think) already. Ottawa and Anaheim have a trade rapport already. One reason for reticence: we know the Ducks wanted Kesler, a two-way center, and Spezza is not Kesler. Spezza would back up Ryan Getzlaf well offensively, but would he withstand the rigors of Western Conference playoff warfare?
4. Dallas Stars. The knock on the Stars is they’re a one-line team. It’s the Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin juggernaut, then the rest. With Rich Peverley’s health up in the air, Dallas desperately needs a second-line center if it wants to build on this season’s success. I agree with THN Dallas correspondent and Stars beat writer Mike Heika, however, that a trade to the Lone Star State likely depends on Spezza’s willingness to sign long-term.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs. If you believe the Joe Thornton rumors, should Toronto not pursue this younger first-line center with the easier contract to manage? It would mean a homecoming for the Toronto-area native. Then again, Murray said he’d rather not deal Spezza to a team Ottawa has to play often.
What? No Vancouver Canucks? Call it wishful thinking. The Canucks are hurtling toward rock-bottom and far better off reaching that point sooner rather than later. The last thing they need is denial in the form of another high-priced forward. Blow it up, Mr. Linden and Mr. Benning.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin