There were lots of interesting bits of information relayed over the airwaves by prominent NHL insiders in the past two days. Darren Dreger appeared on “The Nielson & Fraser Show” on Edmonton’s TSN 1260 this morning and Elliotte Friedman was interviewed on Calgary’s Fan 960.
I’ve transcribed the important parts of the interviews that pertain to the Senators below, but if you’d like to listen to the audio of the interviews, I’ve embedded each of the audio files below.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
Darren Dreger’s Interview:
On Ales Hemsky or the Senators being more out to lunch for the three-year offer at $10 million offer that was offered…
“Ottawa’s trying to snap up a few of these guys and they’ve got nothing but respect for Ales Hemsky. Milan Michalek is also in that group and I think they made a very similar offer to Michalek on a two-year deal, not on a three-year deal. Any time you’re getting a player like that – be it Hemsky or Michalek – at less than $4 million per (season), I think that’s a considerable discount. But, that’s too much of a discount for those guys. Michalek, I know, wants to stay in Ottawa and I’m sure that Hemsky enjoyed his brief time in Ottawa as well. It’s always easier not to have to move again and these guys think of that. So when you talk about a hometown discount, that’s what it’s really all about. It’s an opportunity to win and it’s less upheaval for you and your family. Is there an appetite, or not an appetite, but is there an opportunity to win in Ottawa? Ottawa’s got a lot of work to get done in a relatively short period of time and there are many question marks around that organization, so I’m not surprised that Hemsky wouldn’t jump at a contract that pays him less than $4 million because what you said at the onset of the conversation is very accurate. It’s not a very deep free agent market and there’s always going to be that team that is going to hold out hope that an offensive player is going to be available. Now, they may not have the money to rot away, maybe they have to work things out over the course of the summer, but those (players) who are patient, usually get paid.”
Bryan Murray says the only UFA he wants to keep is Milan Michalek. They have had discussions with agent Allan Walsh. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) June 11, 2014
It makes sense for Bryan Murray to refer to Milan Michalek as the only “unrestricted free agent that he wants to keep” when Michalek is the only unrestricted free agent that he has a chance to retain.
On resolving the Spezza situation and how much he reads into his preference to not go to another Canadian market…
“Yeah, I don’t quite get that. I mean obviously we jump to the conclusions they don’t like the heat or the media scrutiny, because that’s really the difference from most American markets compared to the Canadian markets is you have the strong daily appetite for that hockey fix. And there are players who embrace it and those who don’t. I don’t think that Jason Spezza is afraid of it by any stretch of the imagination. You can’t be when you’re the captain of a Canadian team, which he was last season. But you’re right, I mean he’s made it clear that he doesn’t want to play on a Canadian team and I think Florida, the Islanders, Columbus and Nashville are the other four teams that he doesn’t have an interest in playing (for). At least that was the information that was given to me yesterday. Nashville surprises me a little bit. Who wouldn’t want to play with Seth Jones or Shea Weber or many of the good players in Nashville, but that’s why you negotiate these limited no-trade (clauses), so that you can do your very best at managing where your next opportunity is. But for Jason Spezza, maybe he’s been caught up in the media speculation and thinks that his best fit is going to be for the Anaheim Ducks as the second line center there. If that’s the case, then Bob Murray and Bryan Murray have a lot of work to do.”
There is always the possibility that the information relayed to Dreger was incorrect, but if it’s true that the Nashville Predators were included on Spezza’s list of ten organizations that he cannot be traded to, it could further limit his market value. In the event that either of the Blues or Ducks come to an agreement with the Vancouver Canucks on a trade for Ryan Kesler, Ottawa’s market for Spezza may be limited even further.
Elliotte Friedman’s Interview
On Bruce Garrioch’s rumour that the Calgary Flames had kicked tires on Jason Spezza…
I would be surprised if Calgary did that. I don’t know if he’s the kind of fit that the organization is looking for. Spezza’s a talented player. Don’t forget that two years ago, this was a guy who was fourth in (NHL) scoring and had 82 points, but health is a big issue and I kind of look… I don’t know if he’s a match for the way the Flames want to play. So I’d be a little surprised to know if the Flames went pretty far down that road because I don’t see really the fit. But, I would say this about Spezza, I don’t think he’s going to be in Canada. I think he’s made it very clear on his list of teams that there are no Canadian teams that he will go to. And one of the stories out there is that he didn’t even submit Toronto or Montreal because he knows the (Senators) aren’t sending him there. Bryan Murray made it very clear last week that he would like to send Spezza to a place where he doesn’t have to see him. I can see the Islanders really being interested in Spezza to play behind Tavares, but again, I don’t think that’s a place that Ottawa wants him to go. I think he’s going to end up in a place like Anaheim or St. Louis or Nashville – a team that needs offence, has enough defensive players and they can say, ‘Okay, we can use a guy who can provide something.’ And also, Spezza will be highly motivated because he’s got one-year left on his current contract.”
The Islanders have one of the most well-regarded prospect pools in the entire NHL, so it would be a great potential fit as a trade partner for Spezza. Such a possibility also offers an added narrative since it Ottawa’s trade with the Islanders that exchanged Alexei Yashin for Bill Muckalt, Zdeno Chara and the second overall draft selection that was used to pick Spezza.
Normally I would be pretty disappointed to hear that Bryan Murray may ignore better trade packages if it meant moving him to another Eastern Conference team, but as Darren Dreger alluded to in his interview this morning, the Islanders are allegedly on Spezza’s list of teams that he cannot be dealt to.
On the inclusion of Mikael Backlund in the reported Calgary package…
“I would be shocked (if Calgary moved him). I would be really surprised. I could see the Ottawa Senators wanting Backlund really badly. I could see a lot of teams wanting Backlund really badly. I’ve talked about this on your show before, I really liked the year he had last year and I would not be so willing to give up Mikael Backlund very easily. I’m not sure how much he’s going to score in this league, but I do think that he’s going to be a very good third line center for a lot years to come. I think what we’re seeing as a trend now is: you need depth down the middle to win in this league. You need a good third line that can score a little and defend a lot to win in this league. I look at him and I would say, to deal him for maybe only one year of Jason Spezza, a Jason Spezza who I don’t think wants to play in Canada, is a risky move that a good organization wouldn’t make and that’s why I’d be very surprised if that was the way it went down because it’s not a sensible move for the Flames.”
As I’ve mentioned before, the trade makes sense for Calgary because it allows them to get rid of Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman’s respective contracts. Even though they may have tantalized Ottawa by offering a Backlund and a lower pick than what Ottawa has asked for, I think Friedman’s right in assessing that a rebuilding team like Calgary seems like an odd fit for Spezza. If we assume Garrioch’s rumour to be true, I wonder if this could be a case of the Flames looking to acquire Spezza for the purpose of flipping him in a separate deal back to an Eastern Conference team that the Senators may be hesitant to deal with.