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Spezza in St. Louis?

April 29, 2014, 11:46 AM ET [197 Comments]
Travis Yost
Ottawa Senators Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
I guess, from an Ottawa management perspective, you are cheering on early post-season exits from potential Jason Spezza trade suitors. I've said this no less than a dozen times already, but barring just disastrously unsavory trade proposals this off-season (or beyond), Jason Spezza will be in another uniform before the end of his current contract. This is reality.

It was clear that, once Ottawa's executive branch decided Paul MacLean would be given something of a stay of execution to pick his underperforming team out of the doldrums, that the scapegoat crosshairs would turn to Ottawa's captain. In some respects, it's fair -- Spezza had a dreadful first-half of the season, has an ugly injury history, has seen his underlying numbers drop-off from where they were during his prime years, and is going to want a long-term deal as a 30+ player in the National Hockey League. You can't even begin to maneuver through these land mines. There's also an internal budget incentive here -- depending on how the deal works out, Ottawa could end up on the right side of the dollars aspect.

The other part of the debate is that Jason Spezza's unfairly shouldering the burden for collective failure, which is totally true. There's also the argument that Jason Spezza was one of the team's best players from about January through the end of the regular season, and that too is true. He really did have a wild year if you split it down the middle. Anyways, he made magic -- regularly -- down the stretch, especially when the team acquired Ales Hemsky. Enough to convince Ottawa to keep him around, or enough to potentially spike trade cost a little bit for an ownership/management group that's ready to move on? Yeah, it sounds like the latter.

One of the hurdles that comes along with moving a marquee talent like Jason Spezza is the fact that there just aren't twenty-nine teams that can bring him in. There are the contractual reasons -- teams need to be able to absorb his current cap hit in a deal, and one would imagine that in the event of a trade, the team would want him extended to risk giving up a bunch of assets for one year of Jason Spezza. By the way, the rumored cost for Spezza is a prospect, a quality draft pick, and a player assumed to be on a non-ELC. That's where Ottawa's set their anchor, anyway. My guess is they move towards the middle during negotiations with whoever.

There's also the reality that no team's going to give up all three of those for Jason Spezza unless the deal is expanded or there are conditions all over the place. Not to mention that some teams just don't have those assets to send over, and even in the event they do, they may not be willing to part with a package for a 30+ player.

One of the few teams we knew were interested at the trade deadline, along with Anaheim and perhaps Colorado, were the St. Louis Blues. You may recall Bryan Murray's stunning non-endorsement at the time about potential trade negotiations with Spezza in March: "That's not the route we're going down right now." I wrote about that remark at the time. It was a mind-blowing red flag about where the captain/front office relationship was (as if we needed another).

So, if you're on the side that thinks Jason Spezza should be moved, you're probably cheering for early flame-outs and panic moves. Well, lo and behold, St. Louis conceded a 2-0 series lead in the first round to Chicago and bowed out early. The funny thing about this series is that the Blues, if they play any other team in that division, probably advance in four or five games. But, they were brutal down the stretch, and had to play Chicago -- one of the three best teams in the league -- as a result.

Normally, you'd think a smart organization would say, "Look, we kind of got hosed with our first-round draw. Let's give it another go next year and avoid tinkering." [The same can be said for the loser of LA-San Jose.] But, I'm not exactly sure that's going to happen.

Now, the "make them pay" point there is just Bruce Garrioch talking, but the second-half of that -- the part about "revisiting" a potential deal -- is absolutely fascinating. And ultimately, not surprising.

It was St. Louis who wanted Jason Spezza at the trade deadline, and it was Ottawa who sort of put a hold on things to see if they could improbably chase down a playoff berth this season. They failed, they've decided it's time to move on from their one-year captain, and he's likely going to be shuttled off this summer.

Either way, perfect outcome if you're looking for a trading partner, I'd think -- though Minnesota winning tomorrow and Anaheim losing to one of San Jose/Los Angeles would be even better.

The Blues, as a franchise, basically satisfy every check-mark you're looking for. They've got the cap space. They've got the need for a top-six center. They've got plenty of young prospects and futures to put in a deal. They've got the win-now mentality that you need to really make this deal. And, we know they're interested.

Is this where Jason Spezza ends up? I'm not sure, but I'd say that at this point in time, you'd think they're the favorite to pick up the phone and make a serious offer.


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