Jason Spezza notched 23 goals and 57 points in 60 games this season. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
A recent comment by Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray regarding an upcoming meeting between he and center Jason Spezza has blown up into full-fledged trade speculation.
Last Thursday, Murray told the Ottawa Sun he intended to have a heart-to-heart chat with Spezza later this month over his role with the team and to address the unhappiness expressed by the center during his player-exit interview over being made the scapegoat by disgruntled Senators fans for the club’s early playoff exit.
Although Murray said he merely wanted to discuss Spezza’s role and the club’s plans, the Sun claimed there were “indications” Spezza asked for a trade. Murray wouldn’t comment about that rumor.
Things got more interesting later when Spezza was interviewed during a charity event in Toronto about Murray’s comments. The veteran Senator said he’d like to remain in Ottawa, but added that until his no-trade clause kicks in July 1 he has no say over what happens.
Spezza’s unsmiling response that he was happy in Ottawa only added fuel to the fire, leading Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal to wonder if the Senators would be willing to accept the same offer the Oilers made for Dany Heatley last summer (Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano and Ladislav Smid) for Spezza.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie suggested the possibility of both sides welcoming a trade, but given Spezza’s expensive contract ($7 million per season over the next five years), it might not be in the cards.
If Murray decides to shop Spezza before July 1 there’s no way he’ll get equal value in return. The best return Murray can hope for is a couple of younger, cheaper players who might blossom into stars in the long-term, or at the very least, play well enough to keep the Senators competitive.
We’ll find out over the next three weeks if Spezza stays or goes, but for those Senators fans braying for him to be shipped out, they should remember the old saying, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
First-line centers of Spezza’s caliber are difficult to find and dealing him away would leave a big hole on the top unit that would be almost impossible to fill.
• Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton has had a remarkable post-season run, but Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons wonders if Leighton’s days with the Flyers are numbered.
Simmons observed Leighton is an unrestricted free agent this summer and suggested Flyers management might cut him loose for a more experienced starter like Marty Turco, Evgeni Nabokov or Chris Mason if they feel Leighton is a “one-trick pony.”
Leighton, however, has played well for the Flyers, not just in this year’s playoffs, but also during the season, after he joined the team as a mid-season pickup from Carolina via re-entry waivers. It was only because of Leighton’s ankle injury in March that the Flyers went with backup Brian Boucher as their starter down the stretch and into the opening round of the playoffs.
If performance alone isn’t reason enough to re-sign Leighton, salary is.
The Flyers currently have more than $48 million committed to 16 players for next season, which would leave roughly $10 million of cap space, with Leighton, Braydon Coburn, Dan Carcillo, Darroll Powe and perhaps Arron Asham, Lukas Krajicek and Ryan Parent to be re-signed.
Leighton would be easier to fit under the salary cap on an affordable one- or two-year contract extension than the more expensive options like Turco, Nabokov and Mason.
• Reports last week stating the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers were discussing swapping first round picks led Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer to wonder if Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford would consider making a pitch.
DeCock suggested the addition of a young, NHL-ready player like Windsor Spitfire Taylor Hall or Plymouth Whaler Tyler Seguin would be difficult for the cap-constricted Bruins to absorb and that a Hurricanes offer of a second round pick plus an affordable NHL player like Chad LaRose would entice Boston into a swap.
From there, the Hurricanes could try and flip picks with the Oilers in hopes of landing Seguin, whom they’ve admired for some time. It’s also worth noting the Hurricanes have drafted 14 Plymouth players in the past 16 years.
It certainly would be a bold move on Rutherford’s part if he could pull it off, but such an attempt would be a long shot. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has stated he’s not interested in moving the second overall pick, but if he’s talking with the Oilers, it’s apparent he’d only be interested in flipping to move up, not down.
• Speaking of the Bruins, Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe wrote the team’s lack of scoring depth on the wings is a problem that could prove difficult to address this off-season, given the cap limitations.
One option suggested by an Eastern Conference “front office” man is trading center Patrice Bergeron, although admittedly it would be a “wild card option."
Bergeron is an unrestricted free agent in 2011 and has a no-trade clause that goes into effect this July 1, but Shinzawa reports the feeling around Bruins management is they’d prefer to re-sign Bergeron to an affordable extension before next summer, rather than trade or lose him to free agency.
GM Chiarelli faces some difficult roster decisions in the coming weeks and he’ll have to contemplate all options. But given Bergeron’s versatility and leadership, it’s doubtful the GM will consider an avenue that extreme.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.