Put away the pitchforks, lads and lasses. I know what you’re all thinking right now – trade away the guy that got named Captain less than 2 months ago? Crazy talk. Think about it for a second though. Is it really that crazy?
Jason Spezza is currently 30 years old, and he’s not getting any younger. His current contract, with a cap hit of $7M, expires after next year. The Ottawa Senators have Kyle Turris (24 years old, 5 years, $3.5M/year), Mika Zibanejad (20 years old, 2 years, $895K/year), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (20 years old, 2 years, $613K/year) and Zack Smith (25, 4 years, $1.9M/year) all locked up, on inexpensive deals. Last year, Turris proved capable of handling, if not excelling at, first line minutes. This year, he has flourished in a 1B role, playing with Clarke MacArthur and now Bobby Ryan. The outcries for Zibanejad to be playing with the NHL club have been deafening, with most of the fan base believing him to be a better option than someone who doesn’t even play the same position than him. Pageau has cooled off significantly after an impressive showing in a small sample size last year (Note: This can in no way be attributed to centering a line with the two best snipers on the team in Erik Condra and Matt Kassian), but with better linemates, he should be able to show off the creativeness that won the hearts of many in Ottawa. Smith doesn’t give a crap, but when played in a checking role on the fourth line, he can wear down opposing teams, and even shut down top lines now and again. If you keep Turris with his current linemates, and line up Zibanejad in the 2C role with Michalek and Conacher, this team could still function as well, or as poorly, as it currently is.
So, depth is not an issue. Now, let’s take a look at who could use Spezza, and what the Senators could likely get out of a trade for their Captain. Most teams not named the Pittsburgh Penguins could use an elite 1C to round out their lineups. For the sake of argument, let’s eliminate all Flortheast division teams, as well as teams that wouldn’t give up enough/don’t need to upgrade their Center position - eliminating teams like the New York Islanders (John Tavares) and Philadelphia Flyers (Salary Cap). Teams I think who would make ideal partners would be the Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, and the Winnipeg Jets. None of these 4 have a top-flight 1C, and they’ve all got the cap room to afford Spezza’s raise. So, who should the Senators look to target?
Calgary: If I’m Bryan Murray, I’d look to snag either a first round pick, or two second rounders, along with a defenseman like Mark Giordano, or T.J. Brodie if they can steal him. Spezza would immediately line up as their first line center, between Mike Cammalleri and David Jones, bumping Matt Stajan down, potentially behind rookie Sean Monahan.
Columbus: Getting Marian Gaborik (1 year, $7.5M) would help both teams, as the Senators could sign Gabby to a 3 or 4 year deal and move on from Milan Michalek. The Blue Jackets could then move Nathan Horton to the top line, creating a first line of R.J. Umberger/Spezza/Horton. Other options include Umberger (4 years at $4.6M, unlikely the Jackets move him) or Ryan Murray (OK, this one might be a dream of mine).
Nashville: Spezza would get to team up with Mike Fisher again, while the Senators would likely try to improve their defence by acquiring someone like Roman Josi (6’2, 200 lbs and he shoots left) or Ryan Ellis. They might also look at Filip Forsberg, if he’s available.
Winnipeg: The prize here would be Evander Kane, but if the Jets are trading for Spezza, they’d likely be envisioning a Kane/Spezza top line. Instead, if Ottawa could pry Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom or Jacob Trouba, as well as a mid round pick, I think they come out on top.
I’d preferably like to go after one of Winnipeg’s defensemen, given their age and offensive prowess, and that they’d be the most likely trading partners. What do you think? Could Ottawa get a better deal out their? Should they even be looking to move Captain Giggles?