You did not need the front page of the Ottawa Sun to know that Jason Spezza’s future with the Ottawa Senators was drawing to a close.
Rather than let the Spezza’s future hang over the team throughout the season and serve as a distraction or let him walk away as a free agent now, the Senators are willing to move their franchise leader in goals and points by a center.
On the surface, it might seem somewhat ironic to trade the team’s captain since buzzwords like “accountability” and “leadership” have been muttered from the mouths of the Ottawa Senators’ higher-ups this offseason.
It is not difficult to infer what was happening however. The Senators have been greasing the wheels and communicating a message to the public through the media that changes would be forthcoming to the team’s leadership group.
In a vacuum, the decision to re-sign veteran defenceman Chris Phillips never made sense. As a declining talent whose best days are behind him, coupled with the fact that the Senators are already loaded with a number of young defencemen who could easily replace his minutes and workload, Phillips was redundant.
In retrospect, what Phillips lacks in talent and foot speed however, he makes up for it with veteran leadership and mentoring abilities (or so we’re told), so the decision to retain him obviously hinged on what the organization was going to do with Spezza.
As the worst kept secret in Ottawa, Spezza is unmistakably going to be moved this summer.
The Senators are a mid-cap team that cannot afford to paper over its mistakes through their refusal to spend to the upper reaches of the NHL’s cap ceiling and they simply cannot afford to invest heavily on Spezza’s health and expect his offensive production rates to resemble the point-per-game levels that we’ve grown accustomed to.
For a player who is at an age when we can reasonably expect diminishing returns, it does not make that much sense to give him the expense, long-term deal that he will assuredly be looking for on the open market.
None of this is particularly new, but contained within Bruce Garrioch’s article is a paragraph that hints at the possibility that Paul MacLean and Jason Spezza cannot coexist.
The Senators decided — after much discussion and consternation — not to send coach Paul MacLean back to Antigonish to spend his time fishing so it’ll be Spezza who may be sent packing.
Spezza’s style has never really suited MacLean’s 200’ mantra, but if Spezza gets moved and the Senators continue to falter, MacLean may well turn out to be the next scapegoat for the Senators.