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Bryan Murray Speaks: Spezza’s Market, Trade Scenarios, Michalek Offer

As Bryan Murray enters his final preparation phase for the NHL Draft that will be held on June 27th and 28th in Philadelphia, he had a media availability with the Ottawa media today. For whatever reason, and despite the well in advance notice, SensTV and TSN 1200 both neglected to cover the event live.

While I await footage of that session, Bryan Murray did make an appearance on TSN 1200‘s ‘In the Box’ after his media availability.

Should you wish to listen to the interview yourself, you can do so by clicking here or by listening to the embedded audio at the bottom of this post.

As always, my thoughts are in bold.

 

On the Jason Spezza situation and where it stands on the offers that he’s been getting…

“Well there’s a few offers. A few teams that I’ve talked to have shown real interest and there is a couple of other teams that have been kicking tires a little bit. Right now we’re nowhere (close to making a deal) obviously. I’ve made a proposal to a couple of teams. One has come back to me and isn’t really in line with what I’m thinking with their at the moment, but we’ll keep working at it and see if it does fit – if there’s something that we can get back that’s somewhat adequate for a player like Jason. (Discussions) will probably continue over this week.”

The two anticipated frontrunners in Spezza trade are the Anaheim Ducks and the St. Louis Blues. 

On having a timeframe over when he thinks something can be done…

“There’s a possibility (of the deal being done before the draft) and obviously if there’s a draft pick included – which there is with a couple of teams – then you’d like to make sure that it got done before the draft, but I’m not going to just do it for the sake of a draft pick at this point in time. So I think you have to kind of realize that we’ll talk and continue and see if we can get… we know we can’t get the return that Jason brings from an offensive point of view. So we have to get (assets) in other areas that will make our team good presently and in the future.”

Ideally, it would be great if Murray can improve the team now and in the future, but hopefully Bryan Murray puts a larger emphasis on being better in the future. There’s obviously a lot of time and a lot of moving parts before the team’s training camp opens in September, but I simply cannot envision the Senators being anywhere near close to contention in 2014/15.

The danger in acquiring draft picks and prospects is that teams have to draft and develop them. Things like attrition and unfulfilled potential, there’s no guarantee that the prospects or draft picks will be any more valuable than whatever player you can add who can help the team now. Nevertheless, I’d still prefer seeing the organization embrace a longer rebuilding process that sees them patiently add and stockpile more young assets.

On the Senators being able to win the deal in the short-term…

“I can’t win the deal and lots of people will question what you do, but that’s what happens when you have a good player, a top player, a guy that’s regarded as a star around the NHL. Whether you like him or don’t like him in Ottawa, but he’s a good a player. He’s a point getter. He makes things happen offensively and you have to score goals to win in this league. No matter what I get at the moment, it won’t be enough.”

If Bryan Murray doesn’t believe he can win the deal and make the team better now, then he has to continue building for the future. 

On him worrying that there’s a perception around the league that top players don’t want to play in Ottawa…

“Dany Heatley, I’m not sure why that all came about. He, at that time, said it was all about the coaching. He had a good year here. We had a good year. I think he felt that if he went elsewhere, the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup maybe or to be in a different market would be good for him. Daniel Alfredsson, it was a tricky one in that we wanted to keep him real bad. We talked to him a lot. For some reason, it wasn’t about money in my way of thinking. We offered him enough money and a job this coming year if he wanted to stay and the salary was high that he would have been almost comparable financially to what he got in Detroit at the end of the day. I think he, after talking to a number of the Swedish players in Detroit, thought it would be different. He thought they were ahead of us as far as winning and it ended up, because we lost his leadership, they were. But I told him at the time, I didn’t think they were any different than we were, but he wanted that experience and I believe he’s satisfied. I haven’t talked to Daniel since the end of the year. With Jason I think that he feels that he’s the trigger point here or the center point of criticism. He gets lots of credit when we win, but lots of criticism when we don’t win and he probably thinks it’s easier on everyone if he moves on. And he does listen to all the stations and he reads all the articles, so when you point the finger, I guess after ten or eleven years, you say ‘Maybe another opportunity or another place not being the focal point all the time might be a good thing.’”

Or Alfredsson allegedly received an email from the owner that offended him enough to cause him to bolt. Allegedly. 

On the component part of the deal that he’s trying to put together…

“There’s nothing locked here. I feel that if we trade, we probably should get a player back. I’ve asked for a high-end young player and I would almost do that straight up. I haven’t been able to do that yet or acquire that. I have asked for a player that could play on our hockey team and fill a good role and I would like to get a prospect or pick at least and as I say, you can’t win the deal, but I think you can get enough pieces that going forward, it will help the organization be good for a long time.”

On Spezza’s list of teams that he can’t be dealt to and whether there’s any possibility that Spezza would waive NTC to go to one of those teams…

“I hope so. I’ve talked to his agent, Rick Curran, a fair amount lately and I’ve asked him that question. I’ve said, ‘There are a couple of teams that are on the list that have expressed interest,’ and their first come back is, ‘We’d like to see if you could do a deal with the teams that we’ve provided to you, but if you get a good offer, come back to us.’”

One of the teams that is rumoured to be on his list are the Nashville Predators. The Preds desperately could use some offence and they do have enough young assets to make a palatable deal. Nashville also has the fortune of being a great city, so provided they can make a substantial offer for Spezza, maybe they could be the exception to him waiving his NTC.

On whether that’s encouraging for him…

“I think it’s at that time in a career where, if a player wants to move, he might have to give a little bit for that to happen and I think Jason is ready to do that at the end of the day if I called him.”

On Spezza’s character and his willingness to move on…

“Jason is a good guy and I get along with Jason very well. We’ve had some great conversations and I’ve heard people spout off that it was about money. I asked, ‘Do you want an extension? Tell me what you need,’ and they didn’t even want to go there at this point in time. It was nothing about what we spend here or don’t spend here. It was time maybe just to look elsewhere. So I think he will help us, if he can and I really believe that if a team that is on his list came in with a big number or a big package for him and I told him, I think Jason would be fair about it.”

From Murray’s comments, it seems like it’s genuinely an amicable split. Despite what we’ve heard or read about Spezza being unhappy with the teams’ inability or unwillingness to spend, his relationship with Paul MacLean or etc., it seems like both parties are of the same mind: that it would be better for everyone involved if they both just moved on.

On whether he’d let Jason negotiate with other teams on an extension…

“Well I told a couple of teams at this point in time, I’ve talked to Jason’s agent about this, and they will do a deal with another team. He’s not going to be (interested) in moving from one team to another moving forward. I’ve told a couple of teams that when we get the deal done, I will give them a chance to get a deal done.”

This is great news that hopefully allows the Senators to net a larger return.

On making an offer to Milan Michalek…

“We’ve made an offer and we’ve had a good conversation with Allan Walsh – who is the agent for Milan. I’ve talked to Milan. He really liked Ottawa. He’s a good guy. He enjoyed playing here. He felt he’s been treated right. He thinks he can still play at a good level, so I did make a proposal to them and I’m just waiting for a reply.”

Gah. I get that Michalek is a likeable character and teammate. I understand that as much as I understand the team’s need to have quality veterans in place. But… and here’s the but… Michalek’s health, even on a short-term deal, is in question and the player has a history of being unproductive away from Jason Spezza. Granted, I think he’ll be a better player away from Spezza than a Colin Greening, for example, but at this stage of his career, he’s just a complimentary piece and someone who’s better suited to playing third line minutes. The Senators’ roster is already riddled with those kinds of players, so perhaps from a payroll allocation perspective, maybe it would be in the team’s best interest to move on from Michalek or jettison expensive bottom six talent that can be replaced internally at a fraction of the cost.

A number of people have pointed out on Twitter that Michalek had some success playing on a line with Mika Zibanejad last season.

According to HockeyAnalysis.com, the Senators were relatively productive when the two were on the ice together – producing 0.934 goals for per 20 minutes of five-on-five ice time.

That’s only part of the story however, because the Senators also gave up a ton of goals while the duo was on the ice too – averaging 1.593 goals against per 20 minutes of five-on-five ice time. Whether that’s the effect of bad luck, poor goaltending or the quality of chances given up by this line remains unclear, but for what it’s worth, the Senators still managed to outshoot the opposition at even strength with these two on the ice together (51.8% CF).

On the Michalek being a shorter-term deal…

“Yeah, it’s a shorter-term.”

On Mike Hoffman signing a contract…

“Hoffman’s a two-way (contract) and he’ll never clear waivers. We feel… the two-way didn’t bother him or us in that we think if he doesn’t make our team out of camp this year, somebody will take a chance on him.”

If the Senators sign Michalek, I don’t know where Hoffman fits in. Clarke MacArthur and Michalek would expectedly fill the first two left wing spots. I know that some believe that Zibanejad and Michalek had some chemistry, but Hoffman actually played well in a small sample size with Zibanejad too. 

On the draft this year and his eagerness to make deals to get picks…

“If I could get a first (round pick), I’m going to try real hard. We know we can get a player there. We believe we can get a player in the second round. When you go four or five… if we get one, it’s fine. If we don’t, that’s fine too. Next year is supposed to be the draft, so when talked about Hemsky for an example, we said, ‘Giving up a fifth this year didn’t rock the boat at all.’ If we got him to come back, it’d be fine. If we didn’t, that’d be fine too. It’s unfortunate. You trade for a player like that thinking that he could help us and it was to really give us a good view of what Ales was, but we couldn’t sign him at the numbers that they were talking about. That had nothing to do with budget, that had to do with my philosophy on what you pay certain players. As I told Steve Yzerman the other day, ‘Sometimes you just have to let a player go. Sometimes they outprice your team and it’s not the worst thing in the world.’”

I’m not sure why Murray used the Hemsky example when talking about his willingness to move a fifth rounder in 2014 when he gave up a higher pick (third rounder) in the 2015 draft.

So why would Bryan Murray be talking to Steve Yzerman? 

According to Nick Kypreos, who just brought up the topic on Hockey Central, the Lightning are interested in Jason Spezza. 

It makes a ton of sense. The Lightning are slated to have two first round picks in each of the next two NHL drafts – thanks to the trade that sent Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers. Coupled with a deep farm system that Hockey Prospectus even ranked as the NHL’s best in September of 2013, this is the kind of move that makes sense. 

Such a deal is not without its complications however. Tampa Bay is an Atlantic Division rival and after being burned in the Ben Bishop for Cory Conacher trade, it remains to be seen whether Bryan Murray’s ego is bruised enough for him to test his luck in another deal with Steve Yzerman and his brain trust.

On making evaluations that make sense for his team and budget…

“Well July 1st is an intriguing time. There’s all these free agents that come to you and you sign them to six or seven years and they play a year for you at a real good level and then they’re not what you thought they were. They can’t play at the same level as they have been playing and you put yourself in a tough situation. So we’ve tried really hard to do what’s right and as I’ve mentioned talking to (Steve Yzerman), I just said, ‘I’ve been around. I’ve had to let some players go. You don’t like to let players go, but sometimes it’s just a thing that happens.’”

Sounds like Murray was trying to ease Yzerman’s pain in possibly letting Ryan Callahan go – which reminds me, please stay the hell away from Ryan Callahan in free agency Bryan Murray! You dodged the bullet with David Clarkson. Don’t make the same mistake with Callahan.

On whether he’s offered Hemsky’s rights around…

“I’ve offered that around, but there’s been no nibbles at this point. And really, at the end of the day, why would you pay much of a price for the opportunity to negotiate with a player unless you could talk to him ahead of time and get a deal done? So I haven’t had any phone calls at all on him.”

Damn.

On whether he expects to be active on July 1st

“I think what happens… last year, we lost Alfie. We had to make a big trade to get Bobby Ryan here and MacArthur was a (free agent) and we liked him. We knew he was competitive. He played better than I thought he could play for us. He really was a good player and he’s a real character man, but we were able to get him. The mistake that I made on him was I should have given him three or four years. But it’s the same thing, you try to be smart and save and we gave him two years and now we’ll try and negotiate after July 1st this year.”

On the optimism that some of Ottawa’s impending 2015 free agents will re-sign…

“They’ve all indicated that they like it – that they like playing here. They were treated real well. They like to negotiate, so we’ll see where we go. We’re going to try. I think we’ve got four guys left that we have to do something with, so over the course of July, we’ll see if they want an extension or whatever.”

This doesn’t sound that reassuring. 

On whether Kyle Turris can be a number one center without Jason Spezza’s presence…

“He’s very close. I really like him at two. The one guy that might vault ahead in the future – whether its’ this year or a year down the road – Kyle’s been… I can’t take a thing away from Kyle. He’s been great and when we got him here, we said ‘We’ve got one of the best number two centers in the league.’ And if I can leave him there, I’d like to do that. But Zibanejad, with his speed and size, if he can just develop a little bit quicker now maybe than we thought he’d have to, he might have that ability to jump to one. But Kyle can play there if he has to. He matches up real well with most of the centers in the league now.”

That is a huge compliment from Murray on Zibanejad’s potential. It could be all lip service because, for better or worse, the organization is going to have to lean heavily on Zibanejad for production, but it’s a motivating tactic for him to put in the work and try to live up to the billing.

For what it’s worth, here’s a link to how Mika’s season as a 20-year old lived up to other centers since the 2005/06 season.

On where they’re at with Lehner and Gryba…

“Well, we’re talking. It’s like any negotiation: you want them done tomorrow, but they’re not going to get done tomorrow. Agents keep coming back. There’s a lot of phone calls involved. Lots of comparables involved. We’ll get them done, I’m sure. I feel confident in that. It’s just a matter of not giving in right away because they asked for something. They’ve got to give and we’ve got to give and I guess that’s why I’ve got the great assistants that I have. They have to do a lot of the phoning.”

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