The conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final (or Finals for the hockey hipsters out there), the attention on the NHL’s rumours and scuttlebutt is only going to get stronger and become more magnified.
Here in Ottawa, the initial reactions to learning that the Senators were exploring the market for their playmaking center varied.
Some praised the decision by pointing to Spezza’s health, age, risk of diminished returns as reasons to make a hockey trade that can benefit the Senators. Some were saddened by the loss of the captain for the second consecutive season. Some emphasized how difficult it would be to replace Spezza’s elite offensive talent right away. Some could not care less because they believe the Senators have to take a step back and that their road to success is a lengthier rebuild. Few organized a rally to encourage the Senators not to trade the captain, but then their efforts were submarined after hockey insiders revealed that Spezza mentioned to the organization in his exit interview that he was amenable to a trade. Others who insufferably overlooked Spezza’s value and on-ice contributions and called in to Senators’ post-game shows because of their jaded obsession with the turnovers and Spezza’s lack of physicality, were overcome with joy as they read the news offhandedly in between sips of their morning coffee at the Antrim Truck Stop when all they were really interested in at the time was a cursory glance at the day’s Sunshine Girl.
Regardless of how fans felt at the time, enough time has passed and enough information has been leaked about Spezza’s openness to a change in scenery for fans to come to terms with the idea of Spezza having played his last game in a Senators jersey and as a result, fans have eagerly anticipated what the Senators could possibly get in a deal.
And just when I thought that there could be nothing more polarizing than Spezza as a player, fan expectations for what the Senators can receive in a trade and lately, there have been concerns that the number of centers who are steadily becoming available might impact the Jason Spezza market.
Fortunately for us, Darren Dreger appeared on TSN 1200‘s ‘In the Box’ to put those fears to bed. If you want to listen to the full interview, you can follow this link or you can stream the embedded audio at the bottom of this post.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
On the center ice market…
“Well, there’s always a market for good centers. There’s no question about that. Now when you’re talking about Jason Spezza, Ryan Kesler or Joe Thornton, you’re talking about a premium crop and so, the asking price for those players is going to be off the charts, as it should be. I’m interested to see whether or not certain teams soften a little bit just because of the quality of the centers that are going to be available. Is there a market for those guys? There’s always going to be a market for those guys, but all of these players want to go to contending teams, right? With all due respect to Winnipeg, Winnipeg is looking for a center. Is Winnipeg going to be able to acquire Joe Thornton or a Ryan Kesler? Probably not. Probably not, so now the market shrinks a little bit. The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the market for a center. They’re not going to acquire Jason Spezza because they have interest in Thornton or Kesler, maybe, but they’re not going to want to spend the assets necessary to acquire them. For me, the team that I’m most interested is the Anaheim Ducks because I think Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks are going to acquire that player and they have the young assets to make a deal like that happen. So maybe it comes down to a two-horse race between Ryan Kesler and Jason Spezza for that number two center in Anaheim (vacancy). Either way, there’s going to be a great deal of speculation in the days and weeks ahead.”
If Vancouver is prepared to stomach sending Kesler to a Pacific Division rival, the market for Spezza might wind up being limited to Nashville and St. Louis. Damn, I was hoping that the market would be large and that the Sens would be able to play more teams off of each other. Ah well, things could be worse: the Sens aren’t Winnipeg.
Here’s holding out hope that Vancouver’s demands to send Kesler within the Division are great enough wherein more consideration and internal debate is given to acquiring Spezza.
On the debate over what Anaheim may do…
“Now what you do is you start to dissect player versus player. Some I’m sure in the Western Conference think that Ryan Kesler is a better fit for the Anaheim Ducks than Jason Spezza might be. I don’t believe that. I think that if you look at both guys, you can have concerns as a general manager with their durability. Both guys have a history of injury, but if I’m Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks, I know that I’m strong enough and big enough. I want to make sure that I have got enough offensive jam to replace what I initially lost in Bobby Ryan. In Jason Spezza, you’re going to get more offensive flair than you might out of Ryan Kesler, so I’m sure that there’s a fair bit of internal debate, but we also know that Bob Murray and the Ducks went down the road a long way at the trade deadline in trying to acquire Ryan Kesler, so if the asking price with Jim Benning in the chair has softened a bit, maybe there’s more comfort there.”
Eeeeeeeeeeeeh, this is the first time I’ve heard how far along the trade negotiations between the Canucks and Ducks got at the deadline. Prior to that, I had simply read about Bruce Garrioch’s reports that the Ducks were one of the few teams that inquired about Spezza’s availability. Fortunately, Jim Benning’s new to the job and like any new employee within an organization, he’ll want his first move to be well received to prevent the immediate second guessing. Maybe this factor will positively effect things in the Senators’ favour.
On Spezza’s value around the league…
“Every player…pfff… everybody has flaws. That’s just the nature of a human being. In Jason Spezza, general managers look at how he plays. Some of them are okay with it because he generates the offence that he does and we’ve seen that kind of high-end ability, but there are others, who are more defensive minded, who can’t stand the tricks and some of the manoeuvring and whatnot particularly in the neutral zone and how defensively porous he can be at times… so I think you’ve got a mixed bag here. But those players are so difficult to come by, especially in the cap world, that you’re crazy if you don’t look at the upside rather than focusing on the downside. Above all from what I’ve said on the hockey side, Jason Spezza is a good guy. He’s a good guy to have around your team and he’s a great guy to have in your community. I believe he’s getting traded. I don’t think there’s any question about that. I think though this is going to be one of the rare situations in which it works out for everybody. Jason Spezza is going to get a fresh start. The organization is going to acquire a package that makes sense that is going to make the team better, perhaps more so in the long-term and it’s going to be a good deal for all.”
Forget Bryan Murray calling teams, let’s just have Darren Dreger sell teams on the idea of acquiring Spezza.