Jason Spezza’s tenure as an Ottawa Senator could be over. The star center reportedly spoke to Senators GM Bryan Murray and expressed his dissatisfaction and frustration with his situation and reception in Ottawa, especially after the team’s first round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs. Spezza supposedly asked for a trade during their initial meeting but neither side will confirm. Murray stated that he hopes to sit down and talk to Spezza again in the coming weeks and determine a course of action.
Conflicting stories are surfacing regarding the initial meeting between Spezza and Murray. About his first meeting with Murray, Spezza stated, “I had a good conversation with Bryan,” Spezza said. “There’s always things to talk about the end of the year — just kind of airing out what I thought, and what he thought.”
Murray, however, seemed to walk away from the meeting with a different opinion. “I got an impression that he was quite unhappy at the end,” Murray stated in a recent interview. He went on to say that he hopes to speak to Spezza in the coming weeks after the emotion and stress of the playoffs has worn off a bit.
Spezza finished the regular season with 23 goals and 57 points in 60 games. He continued his impressive offensive pace by adding another goal and six assists in Ottawa’s six-game series with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. However, Spezza finished the series with a minus-3 rating and was called out by the media and fans alike for turnovers and general poor play.
In November 2007, Spezza signed a seven-year contract worth $49 million, which averages out to a cap hit of roughly $7 million each season. The contract does not currently have a no-trade clause, but one will come into effect as of July 1 of this year. If Spezza is indeed unhappy in Ottawa and would like to be dealt, the Senators would probably prefer to move Spezza before the no-trade clause kicks into effect, otherwise the team risks a similar situation to the one they dealt with last summer with Dany Heatley. Heatley very publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with the Senators and asked for a trade from the organization. However, Heatley said he would only waive his no-trade clause for a handful of teams and offered a list to Murray of preferred destinations. Heatley eventually landed with the San Jose Sharks.
Spezza, at least, seems to be more interested in some level of discretion with the situation, despite the swirling rumors. “[I’m] trying to keep the conversation between the two of us,” he said of his conversations with Murray.
At 26-years-old, Spezza should be coming into the prime of his career – which is saying a lot for an athlete that has already recorded two seasons in which he scored 90 or more points. Throughout the past five years with the Senators, Spezza has had three seasons in which he scored 30 or more goals as well.
The obvious problem with this scenario is that the Senators would need to find a suitor capable of absorbing Spezza’s hefty cap hit of $7 per season, which is something that not a lot of teams would be able to do without making some heavy roster changes. If Spezza does become available, the Columbus Blue Jackets are one team that could possibly make a move for him. Columbus has sought a center for Rick Nash for several seasons and the two could work magic together on the ice and help create a dominate top line for the Blue Jackets. Columbus currently has roughly $9 million in space under the cap, which would be enough to absorb Spezza’s cap hit.