Andy Strickland Verifies that Blues’ Interest in Spezza is Real

Throughout the past few weeks, Senators fans have been riddled with information from an Ottawa perspective pertaining to Jason Spezza’s availability.

For the most part, fans have absorbed information about rumoured trade destinations or news that Spezza actually indicated during his exit interview with Senators management that he would welcome a trade.

To this point, there has been very little information available from other NHL cities about the level of genuine interest in acquiring Jason Spezza – so with that in mind, it made St. Louis Blues “insider” Andy Strickland’s interview on the Fan 960 all the more interesting.

When asked whether St. Louis’ level of interest in Spezza was simply casual, Strickland played up the mutual interest between the Blues AND Spezza.

“Well, it would help and I’ve thrown his name out there as well and in fact, I reported that the list Jason Spezza gave to Ottawa, St. Louis was right there, I was told, at the top – if not the very first team, certainly one of the top few teams. And the Blues have pieces to make this deal if they wanted to. And it’s a friendly (contract) when you look at it. His cap hit is high, but the cash, you’d have to pay him out next season in the final year of his contract, $4 million.”

Strickland then rehashed the well documented concerns pertaining to Spezza, but essentially swept those away by categorizing him as an “A-player” that the Blues organization lacks.

“The biggest issue, I think, that scares teams a little bit would be: he’s north of 30 years of age and he’s dealt with some injuries. Combine those two things and you’re a little bit concerned, but again, you’re not talking about a guy that’s got significant term left on his contract. You know, the Blues need ‘A players’. They’ve got a number of ‘B’ to ‘B+ players’ and they’re ‘A-workers’, but when you’re asking your workers to also do the goal scoring, that can be taxing on guys.”

Strickland would go on to reference a number of the Blues’ important pieces and of note, he goes on to reference Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko — two of the most attractive pieces that Ottawa could hope to acquire in a Spezza trade — as players who could develop into dynamic, game-breaking talent. Whether we can infer that means the Blues would be unlikely to move either remains to be seen, but maybe expectations for bringing in this type of young, NHL-ready talent in a potential deal should be lowered.

“I mean, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Steen… these guys are really, really good players. Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, these guys are already good players and there’s a good chance those two guys, talking about Schwartz and Tarasenko, develop into ‘A-players’ down the road.”

For the prospect porn indulging fans, it’s worth noting that when Hockey Prospectus’ Corey Pronman ranked the top 10 prospects in each NHL organization, he rated the Blues as having the NHL’s worst prospect pool. (Note: For Pronman’s rankings, a prospect is defined as a player who has 25 or fewer regular season games played during the last NHL season, or 50 or fewer career NHL regular season games played—not the same as Calder Trophy requirements.)

According to Pronman:

“St. Louis entered the year with a top-heavy system, and thus, graduating Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz is a big blow to their ranking. Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin are very good, young players, but it falls off here after that. Jordan Schmaltz and Tommy Vanneli, among a few others, could be interesting in a few years, but right now, the Blues’ system is very thin.”

If players like Tarasenko or Schwartz are untouchables, maybe the Senators will have to settle for some of the Blues’ less-heralded young assets like Rattie or a Jaskin.

Will those pieces be enough to get a deal done?

I don’t know, but if Strickland’s right in asserting that Spezza is the kind of piece that the Blues need, maybe they’ll engage in a bidding war with another prospect-laden organization like the Ducks and be forced to up the ante.

“I think that’s what the Blues are kind of missing. You look at the last couple of years in the playoffs going up against L.A. and then this year going up against Chicago, (those teams) had game-breakers. They had game-changers – guys that can just in an instant, you don’t even recognize they’re in the game and all of a sudden, they just have a dramatic impact on the outcome of a game. They score huge goals. They’re looking for those type of players and they don’t grow on trees, I realize that. And you may have to make a trade to bring one of those guys on board, but I know the Blues would love to upgrade or improve their offensive goal scoring. That’s something that I think affected them this year in the playoffs and they’d like to correct that.”

Strickland’s right though – offensive talent like Spezza’s does not grow on trees. If the Blues are serious about correcting their offensive shortcomings, they’ll hopefully make the kind of aggressive mistake trade similar to the one they made at the 2014 NHL trade deadline by bringing in Ryan Miller and Steve Ott.

Pony up Blues!

Below is the audio from the interview. The Spezza portion of the interview begins at approximately the 12:00 mark.

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