Almost two months since the Senators were eliminated from the playoffs, all the GM knows for sure about his top-paid player’s personal feelings regarding the future is that the player, a team leader, wouldn’t “object” to it being in a different jersey.
If that is indeed the case, Bryan Murray should slam the pedal to the metal and trade Jason Spezza as fast as he can.
The Senators are in no position to employ a waffling, $7-million per year (cap hit) Spezza at any time, but especially so after July 1. If he’s not 100% committed to the cause in mind, body and soul, a deal has to be done before the no-movement clause on his contract kicks in.
Otherwise, they face the prospect of doing the Dany Heatley dance all over again.
As Ottawa has experienced, trading a big ticket star is so difficult when there are even more restrictions than its partner’s ability to afford him. The Senators were fortunate that the Sharks, one of the few teams on Heatley’s acceptable destinations list, gave them a decent player in return. Still, in the minds of most, Murray was forced to accept a downgrade — and he might not even get a Milan Michalek back next time.
No organization can continually settle for downgrade deals, least of all one like Ottawa, which usually resides near the middle of the pack. When it’s time to decide on buying or selling assets that are months away from being able to test the unrestricted free agent market, they really have no choice at all. They need to keep them for the playoff push — and wind up getting nothing for guys like Zdeno Chara and Anton Volchenkov.
Accepting downgrade deals and allowing cornerstone players to walk are mentioned high up in the directions to the NHL’s basement. So yeah, the next nine-day period is extremely important for the Senators.
How did things get to this point with Spezza, whose disenchantment supposedly has to do with the home crowd booing aimed his way during the playoffs?
Excuse me for having a hard time swallowing that one.
For one thing, it wasn’t that bad or often — it certainly wasn’t a fraction as loud as the cheering and chanting done for Daniel Alfredsson, and the captain says he can’t hear the fans during the game — and it wasn’t anything Spezza hasn’t heard before.
So maybe the booing is bothering someone else who actually can hear it, someone close to Spezza who tells him it’s unfair treatment. And maybe, just maybe, Spezza’s problem isn’t really with the fans or the media who rip him for his defensive play (which isn’t nearly as horrible as made out to be) and turnovers.
Who knows, maybe it’s with Cory Clouston.
Spezza’s first NHL coach, Jacques Martin, was on the young player for his lack of awareness inside his own zone.
The way he scored growing up, it’s quite likely Martin was also the first to ever ask him to also play hard in his own end. Murray, when he was Ottawa’s coach, was less strict with Spezza when it came to that part of the game, and both John Paddock and Craig Hartsburg let him run wild.
Clouston is more like Jacques, and maybe Spezza is rejecting the collar. Who knows?
Either way, a team needs its leaders to want to be on the team, and to answer questions in a way that leaves no doubt to the contrary.
That Spezza has left his GM with the understanding he wouldn’t “object” to a trade for two months is pretty close to the same as him saying he wants to be moved, in my books.
And while it will be difficult to find a team to take on his salary — plus come up with a point-a-game first line centre to replace him — it would be much harder to trade Spezza for anything close to equal value after July 1.
In fact, Spezza might not have what it takes to lead the Senators back to the finals in the post-Alfredsson era in any event.
So unless they don’t want to deal him before the expiration of his contract in 2015, the time to do it is now.