Rumoured Nashville Return for Spezza

Elliotte Friedman included a few Senators-related items in his final ‘30 Thoughts‘ blog for the CBC and although they’re not necessarily the sexiest bits of news.

1. Here’s another trend for you: Right now, there are eight teams in the NHL without a centre carrying a $5 million average salary. Only one made last season’s playoffs — the New York Rangers. The others are Arizona, Buffalo, Calgary, Nashville, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg. I’m not sure this is a coincidence. Look at the arms race for centres since the Stanley Cup was awarded. 

Alright, so the Ottawa Senators’ inability or unwillingness to spend money angle has been beaten to death over the past few years, but in this particular instance, this factoid is probably something that the Senators’ should be bragging about. Mika Zibanejad ($894,167 average annual value), Kyle Turris ($3.5M AAV), David Legwand ($3M AAV) and Zack Smith ($1.88M) are inexpensive, but only because Zibanejad is in the final year of his entry-level contract, Turris and Smith signed team-friendly extensions and Legwand signed as a veteran stopgap after the Jason Spezza deal created a an opportunity for him to land in situation in which he can play more minutes.

Friedman’s fact isn’t some condemnation of the Senators’ situation, their depth at center — if you even include a Jean-Gabriel Pageau and even a Derek Grant — is enviable. Maybe it lacks some star talent, but each player offers good value to the organization. In the case of a player like Turris, if he were eligible to sign an extension now, there’s no question that he would fetch more than $5-million per season in this new agreement. Similarly, should Zibanejad continue to develop as a player and fulfil the first line expectations that Bryan Murray has placed upon him, he should be able to surpass this monetary threshold somewhere down the road too.

39. If Jason Spezza had waived to Nashville, the package to Ottawa was going to be similar (if not exact) to what the Predators gave up for James Neal.

The package that Nashville wound up moving to Pittsburgh for James Neal included only Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.

As a 25-yeard old third line guy who appears to have terrible possession numbers and limited upside, I won’t lose any sleep knowing that the Bryan Murray almost had Nick Spaling in a Senators jersey.

With a disproportionate amount of players on the parent roster or in the pipeline who project to be bottom six forwards, Spaling is and always would be redundant in Ottawa.

Hornqvist on the other hand, is intriguing. Not only is he a proven player who has posted some exemplary puck possession numbers, but he also has three 20+ goal seasons and one 30-goal season under his belt.

At 27 years of age, his track record suggests that he’s a candidate to flirt with 30-goals when his shooting percentage gets into the double digits. He is also signed to a team-friendly contract that lasts through the 2017/18 season and carries a cap hit of $4.25 million. The likelihood of Hornqvist reaching another level offensively at his age is small, but he’s a good player that drive possession and net 20 to 30 goals and 40 to 50 points.

Would the Senators be able to recoup enough value back in this reported deal though?

It’s tough to say.

Looking at the money that the Senators saved in the Spezza deal with Dallas, had the Senators acquired Hornqvist, they simply would not have had the cash to sign David Legwand as a free agent unless they shed salary elsewhere. As a right winger, this Hornqvist trade also would have boxed Mark Stone out of a top-six right wing role.

There is no question that this deal with Nashville would have made the Senators more competitive in the interim, but it would not have addressed the team’s farm system that desperately could use an infusion of talent.

Although the possibility of prospect attrition is very real and there stands a reasonable chance that assets like Alex Chiasson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill and Dallas’ 2015 second round pick might not pan out, there is also the possibility that one or more of these future assets can develop into something that’s better or be packaged to bring in someone who is better than a Nick Spaling or even a Patric Hornqvist.

There is also the school of thought that for the Senators’ best Stanley Cup interests, it may be better for the team to take a step back so that it can take two steps forward. By stockpiling more assets from Dallas at the risk of being a worse team this season, the trade with Dallas lends itself to this philosophy and with that in mind, I’m satisfied with what the Senators ultimately wound up with than this reported Nashville trade package.

 

40. The Stars’ plan for Ales Hemsky is to start him with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. “They are shooters,” GM Jim Nill said. “We need a passer with them.” Asked who Spezza gets, Nill first mentioned Valeri Nichushkin. After living with a local family much of last year, he is now on his own. Nill expects a similarly big step on the ice in the player’s second season, and lining up with Spezza could do that. 

Poor Jason Spezza. Make that two straight years in which his team acquired a right winger on the first day of free agency and he won’t get an opportunity to spend a significant amount of time playing with that player. Kidding aside, having the opportunity to play alongside Valeri Nichushkin is an incredible consolation prize.

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