Dreger Talks: Spezza Market and One-for-One Deals

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TSN‘s Darren Dreger appeared on TSN 1050‘s ‘Leafs Breakfast’ this morning to discuss the latest in NHL rumours – a topic that assuredly meant the “NHL Insider” would update everyone on the latest happenings in the Jason Spezza sweepstakes.

To listen to the interview, you can follow this link or you can listen to it via the embedded audio at the bottom of this post.

As always, my thoughts are in bold.

On the loss of some veterans and how the Anaheim Ducks can retool their roster…

“Well I think you might see some big names and some powerful players. We know Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks are focused on bringing in another center to play second line center for the Ducks and the names are consistent: Jason Spezza or Ryan Kesler. Bob Murray is going to work on both of those teams – Ottawa and the Vancouver Canucks – and if he can find a deal that makes sense, then he’s going to make a move on that. There are some managers out there who think that a deal with Anaheim could happen very early next week. I don’t know that it’s as close as that and I’d like to say that it’s for a Ryan Kesler or a Jason Spezza, but as of last night, they don’t know. What they do know in Anaheim is that the asking price for both of those guys is extraordinarily high. But you’re right, there are going to be changes. Saku Koivu is not coming back. Selanne retires. Jonas Hiller is not coming back, but this is a team that is still very strong. But, not strong enough to win the Western Conference and that has to be the focus for Anaheim because they know they’re close.”

The rub for Anaheim in this situation will be their interest in moving a larger or better package of assets to a Pacific Division rival for Kesler. If they’re hesitant to pull the trigger on that deal, it provides Ottawa with an opportunity to deal with a Ducks team that is lush with prospects. Moreover, Ottawa could play Anaheim’s interest in Spezza off and leverage it against other teams so that they would improve their offers in turn. 

Mind you, if Anaheim is really of the mind that Kesler is the better fit, it may not matter since they would assuringly go to greater lengths to finalize that deal. 

As an aside, it would be an interesting twist to see the Ducks use their prospect base and this year’s weak draft to corner the market and bring in both centers. Considering that both players are slated to earn a combined $9 million in real money, the only thing that could hold back such a deal is Anaheim’s flexibility when it comes to their internal budget. They certainly have the assets and the cap space to make both deals happen.

On whether we’re still in a period when the asking price for anyone in a trade is still very high…

“Yeah, it really truly is. If you use Spezza as our example, Bryan Murray wants to maximize the asset there and he wants a similar return to what he had to pay to get Bobby Ryan from the Anaheim Ducks and he may not get that. He might, but as Bryan Murray pointed out yesterday as part of his media conference, he’s going to lose in this deal. He knows that because the best player in this deal is the player that’s going out and that’s Jason Spezza. Ottawa is also open to options, but they’re lofty. They’re premium assets. If it’s a one-for-one, player-for-player deal, I’m told the Ottawa Senators in dealing with St. Louis and some of the other interested teams are looking for a top six young forward – a guy in that $3 to $4 million range who has still room to develop and ultimately make his money down the road. The asking price for any of those top notch players is extraordinarily high and it’s probably not going to change until you get to the draft floor and the managers who have those players realize that teams aren’t just willing to pay that price.”

The way that Dreger linked the Senators to St. Louis makes me believe that the Sens are more interested in acquiring a Jaden Schwartz or a Vlad Tarasenko then they are rolling the dice on a package involving Patrik Berglund and some prospects.

Ottawa’s interest in Schwartz reportedly dates back to his 2010 draft year. The Senators had the 16th overall selection that year, but Schwartz’s name went off the board two picks before. The Senators then infamously flipped their first round pick to St. Louis — who selected Vladimir Tarasenko — for David Rundblad, St. Louis’ first round pick from the 2009 draft.

Making a bold trade to acquire a young player who’s somewhat proven may be an expensive acquisition, but that’s the kind of move I’d prefer to see the Senators make. Schwartz or Tarasenko would be excellent building blocks to augment this team’s young core. 

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