Send a Star to the Stars: Dallas Looking For a Second Line Center

Over the past few weeks and months, the same handful of teams have been mentioned as favourable landing spots for Jason Spezza. Anaheim and St. Louis in particular have been linked to the Senators dating back to this season’s NHL trade deadline when Spezza’s name first started surfacing in the rumour mills.

More recently, teams like the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers have also been included as potential suitors, not because of their reported interest but because they have glaring offensive deficiencies and could use a productive center like Spezza to bolster their offence.

One team that has largely been ignored are the Dallas Stars, but in a good catch by @mannyelk, he brought attention to how the Dallas News‘ Mike Heika detailed how the Stars are searching for a second line center and how Spezza, Paul Statsny, Ryan Kesler or one of the Staal brothers from Carolina could fit in.

Granted, there is a lot of spitballing going on within the article itself and just because Mike Heika believes that Spezza is a fit doesn’t mean that Dallas general manager Jim Nill will share the same sentiment. Yet at the same time, Heika does raise a number of interesting talking points.

Although Heika praises Spezza’s offensive numbers and faceoff prowess as skills that the Stars could desperately use, he cautions against a trade actually coming to fruition because of the nature of Spezza’s contract.

It’s not that Heika does not believe there is value in the $4 million that Spezza will be paid in real money (note: Spezza will carry a cap hit of $7 million next season), it’s just that the remaining one-year term that’s left on the deal is seen as a hindrance to any prospective trade between the two teams. 

Per Heika:

The Stars are not in place where they can just rent Spezza for a year and then let him hit free agency. So if they are not allowed to discuss an extension before the trade, I don’t think they’re interested.

The cap hit would be fine for the Stars, as they have plenty of space, but it could be a problem for the Senators, because they are close to the floor. The guess is they would be targeting players such as Trevor Daley, Brenden Dillon or Alex Chiasson, along with a prospect and a draft pick. That means they might need more salary. The Senators could always spend that in free agency, but you also could try to work a deal where they take Sergei Gonchar and the $5 million remaining on his contract.

There are a lot of options there.

But, would you be willing to give up Daley or Dillon or Chiasson (or Alex Goligoski or Brett Ritchie or Jason Dickinson), or whomever the Senators might be asking for? They also would want to do this deal before the draft, so are you willing to give up your first-round pick?

The question of whether or not Spezza would be amenable to passing up his first and potentially last opportunity to test unrestricted free agency is something that has never been answered by him, at least publicly that is.

The idea that affording teams the opportunity to negotiate an extension with Spezza isn’t new, especially since it obviously adds value in trade negotiations and mitigates the risk that Spezza will pull an Ales Hemsky and hit the open market – leaving whatever team he’s dealt to with nothing to show for it.

The intrigue comes in the sense that the CBA is designed to prevents teams, including the Senators, from formally agreeing to an extension with Spezza prior to July 1st. With the Senators trying to finalize a deal by the NHL Draft on June 27th, will teams that are interested in acquiring Spezza  want to wait until after July 1st  so they get an exclusive negotiation window, especially since it will mean that they have a chance to strike out in free agency (ie. Statsny) first?

Following up on his original blog post on the Dallas News site, Heika conducted a live chat today to discuss the Dallas Stars’ offseason and in it, he brought up Spezza’s name a few times.

“I think Jason Spezza is the guy who is a good fit for the team. Dependable scorer, solid faceoff guy, good leader. I’m not sure what it would take, but I think he’s a guy who could be a perfect fit if he wants to come here and stay here. If Ryan Kesler is available, I also think the Stars would be interested, but I do wonder if a trade between Dallas and Vancouver would have complications because of the ire between the two owners.”

It always helps to see people give preference to Spezza, especially when many within the industry seem to prefer Kesler as an alternative, but later on in the chat, Heika indicated that the Stars could always go with a more conservative route.

“I like Spezza and Kesler. I think they will check the price tag on Stastny. There’s a chance they could try to ride Cody Eakin and hope that next summer produces a better (younger) option.”

When asked to rank the Stars’ options for the second line center role in the offseason, Heika expressed his preference to go with an internal option first.

“Just because I’m a chicken, I’d go with Eakin first, then Spezza, Kesler, Stastny, Legwand. I guess the question would be at what price either Richards would be. If they are a bargain, that might elevate them. That goes the same for the trade guys. Jim Nill will go with Eakin before he’ll give up too much in a trade or free agency.”

So Heika’s opinion could be something or it most likely could be a lot of nothing. At the very least, it’s enlightening to hear that the Stars may be in the market too. If Ottawa can use their interest to create more leverage in trade negotiations, that helps matters considerably.

Melnykisms

In case you missed it on Twitter, there’s a new section to the website that can be accessed here. It’s purpose is to catalogue as many Eugene Melnyk quotes as possible in a chronological order. I realize that I will have inevitably missed some, but if you have, please email the website (the6thsens at live dot com) and let me know what I missed with a citation and I’ll be sure to include it in the next update.

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