Wanna blog? Start your own hockey blog with My HockeyBuzz. Register for free today!

On Jason Spezza and Player Obligations

June 28, 2014, 3:36 PM ET [401 Comments]
Travis Yost
Ottawa Senators Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
It dawns on me that Ottawa's front office has more or less accomplished what it desired with its leak of a purported trade with Nashville: paint Jason Spezza with the bad guy brush, despite all prior reports indicating that the falling out between Ottawa and Jason Spezza was mutual.

I'm not exactly sure what the point of negotiating with Nashville was in the first place if Bryan Murray knew Jason Spezza would nix the deal anyway, but you can't fault Bryan Murray for at least trying to line something up. After all, it's not like there are countless teams offering desirable packages for Ottawa's center. Hoping that the player would reconsider teams on his limited no-trade list isn't the worst idea in the world.

When I saw this information leak to the press, I had to pause for a second. Why would the team give out non-information (i.e., a failed trade proposal) in this instance? The most striking and obvious answer is that the team wants to look proactive to consumers -- they're trying to move a player in good faith, and it's the player that's been obstinate about where he can land.

Based on reaction on Twitter and various web sites, I sense that a lot of people think that Jason Spezza's at fault to some degree -- see here, here, here, etc.

I have a countless number of thoughts about the CBA and its failings, but let's state the obvious, first and foremost: no-trade clauses, like just about everything else in the NHL's master book, are collectively bargained. Players and owners negotiate at arms length to strike a trillion smaller deals, amounting in one larger deal that constitutes playing agreement.

One of these many, many rules deals with contracts. The players and owners have made concessions alike on this very turf. In the NHL, player contracts are guaranteed, and players can be awarded with various trade clauses (including limited and full) by owners/general managers as an incentive to sign. Conversely, player terms cannot exceed seven/eight years in length, and there's a macro-level ceiling (the salary cap) that artificially deflates total player salaries. It's a give-and-take that lays the foundation of player and owner obligations.

When Jason Spezza signed his last deal, he guaranteed to play the total term with the Ottawa Senators and Ottawa Senators only. The player has very few mechanisms to work around this execution -- there have been myriad trade requests in the past (Luongo, Kesler, St. Louis immediately come to mind), and even with their desire to go elsewhere, each and every one of them had to satisfy their playing obligations by showing up for practice and playing in games.

There are ownership obligations, too. When you sign a player in the NHL, you are guaranteeing that you will pay the player x dollars over y term, but there are mechanisms (such as buyouts and compliance buyouts and trades and waivers) that can get teams, to some degree, out of deals.

As it pertains to no-trade clauses, owners and general managers know the power of the incentive with respect to limited/full options. Limited trade clauses are the sexy way of incentivizing players to sign -- they ensure that a player who signs will either stay in the city he initially covets, or be shipped out to another location that is also desirable. The teams have to comply with the rules of the limited no-trade clause -- they can shop the player to any market not on the player's list, but cannot force a trade to a location where the player has said no.

A full no-trade clause is a limited no-trade clause on steroids. The full no-trade clause is a massive contract incentive, mostly because the player knows his control of the future in his hands. Unless he decides to waive his clause and move on, he can stick around for the length of his contract. NHL GMs benefit from no-trade clauses the day of the signing because it gives them a competitive advantage over teams who do not offer such an item. They pay for it in the event a player wants out.

This brings us back to Ottawa and Jason Spezza. Ottawa did not have to give Jason Spezza a limited no-trade clause. They did. Ottawa benefited by giving Jason Spezza a limited no-trade clause in keeping the player's interest and signing long-term. They are paying for it now that both sides have had a falling out. Ottawa wants to move on, and so does Jason Spezza.

It is well within Ottawa's power to send Jason Spezza to one of twenty markets. It is not within Ottawa's power to send Jason Spezza to one of ten markets (including Nashville), because those are the terms agreed upon by players/owners from the last collectively bargained agreement, and those are the terms of Jason Spezza's limited no-trade clause.

So, excuse me if I can't find an ounce of blame for Jason Spezza when it comes to (a) wanting out of an undesirable situation; and (b) exercising his limited ability to control his own destiny, a power given to him unilaterally by the team now trying to trade him.

If Ottawa thinks that Jason Spezza's putting the screws to them by exercising his right to not be sent to Nashville, perhaps they should consider that they can force him -- under collectively bargained guidelines -- to show up to work for 82 more games during the 2014-2015 regular season. This, somehow, continues to get lost in the railroading of the player.

There's nothing unfair about the process, and it is pathetic if Ottawa's goal with this Nashville leak is to gun down Jason Spezza in public relations cold blood. It's a waste of time and impeccably insulting to fans who, especially in Ottawa, know better.

Join the Discussion: » 401 Comments » Post New Comment
More from Travis Yost
» Wrapping Things Up
» Enforcer
» Random Thoughts
» Shot Coordinate Fun
» Any Room?