When it comes to the Calgary Flames and Jason Spezza, it always felt safer to add the Flames to the list of ten teams that Spezza would refuse to waive his no-trade clause for, instead of the list of suitors who would be interested in trading for him.
Whatever my feelings, that hasn’t stopped Flames GM Brad Treliving from reportedly making an offer that includes Jiri Hudler, Mikael Backlund, Dennis Wide and an undisclosed draft selection.
Per the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch yesterday:
“While Flames’ GM Brad Treliving deserves credit for trying to make a splash and rebuild, sources say Spezza has no desire whatsoever to stay in Canada and has told the Senators as much.”
Of course, the possibility that the Senators could even make a deal with the Flames is predicated on the unlikely possibility that Spezza would even consider waiving his NTC to go there, but for the sake of this piece, let’s humour the idea that he would even go there.
Judging by what Brad Treliving is offering, the only splash he’s making emanates from the steaming turd he just dropped in the Senators’ punch bowl.
By offering up an alleged package that includes “Jiri Hudler, Mikael Backlund, possibly Dennis Wideman and one of their several second and third-round picks”, the Flames are essentially waving Backlund and a draft pick in Bryan Murray’s face in hopes that the Senators will pick up the combined $9.25 million that is owed to Wideman ($5.25 million cap hit that runs through 2016/17) and Hudler ($4 million cap hit that runs through 2015/16).
In essence, it’s a glorified salary dump that uses Backlund and a draft pick to tantalize Ottawa into taking on two 30+ year old veterans who may or may not make the Senators mildly better in the interim.
Ideally in any Spezza trade, the Senators can add some high upside value that can help the team over a longer term. Even with the inclusion of a third or second round pick, Calgary’s offer simply does not have enough of it.
As much as I like the hockey analytics darling in Mikael Backlund (seriously though, just do a Google search of the words ‘Mikael Backlund Flames Nation’), his upside is limited to being a good second line center.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but with the presence of Mika Zibanejad already on the roster and the Senators’ commitment to developing him at center (not to mention Zibanejad’s another puck possession player whose numbers at 20 years of age already approach Backlund’s at 25 years of age), the Senators can afford to wait and hold out hope for a better offer for Spezza.
If there’s an important takeaway from the Treliving offer, it is that the Flames may be open to moving Backlund in a deal and if the Senators really like him, perhaps they can creatively find a way to acquire him without having to take on veterans like Hudler and Wideman whose combined salaries limit what a financially strapped team like the Senators might be able to do in free agency or on the trade market for a player or players that they may prefer as alternatives.
But why would the rebuilding Flames even want an aging Spezza who only has one-year left on his deal?
Assuming the Flames are genuine in their interest to continue rebuilding, perhaps they would explore the possibility of immediately trading Spezza back to an Eastern Conference or one of Ottawa’s Atlantic Division rivals that Bryan Murray would be hesitant to deal with.
Imagine Bryan Murray’s shock and horror if the Flames sent Spezza to Brian Burke’s former team for a package of players that Burke has familiarity and comfort with?
Spezza Trade Request Fallout
In case you needed to bear witness to the power of the interwebs, here’s the story of how a Brad May rumour added a little more snark to an already sensitive Senators fan base.
According to user ‘The Fuhr’ on the Senators section of the Senators section of HFboards, Brad May stated on Sportsnet that “Spezza never asked to be traded… He wanted a commitment from ownership to spend the necessary money to win… If they can’t do that he would like to go somewhere that wants to win”.
I’ve searched for the audio or video of the quote in question, but cannot find it. If you’re reading this and know where and when he made these comments, I’d love to hear it firsthand, so please pass along that information via email or the comment thread below.
Fortunately, @BringBackLee tweeted at Brad May and asked him to corroborate the quote in question and to everyone’s betterment, May stood by his comments.
If true, it has the potential to be pretty big story here in Ottawa, but whether even if it isn’t, it’s certainly believable.
Look at the things that have happened this season:
- Daniel Alfredsson called Jason Spezza to explain why he was leaving the Senators’ organization to sign as a free agent with Detroit
- The organization’s conflicting statements throughout the course of the season that downplayed the correlation of spending and winning
- The organization’s constant teasing its fans and its players that money will be available to add the right player who can make the team more competitive. And then once a player is acquired and has some offensive success with Jason Spezza, management expresses an unwillingness or inability to retain that player.
Who could blame Spezza for feeling this way?
He’s essentially echoing the concerns that fans share.
Other theories, like Spezza’s relationship with Paul MacLean and management citing Spezza’s desire to escape being lightning rod of criticism, have abounded for why Spezza wants out, but it’s not like this is an either or situation or that any of these reasons are mutually exclusive.
Spezza’s rationale for wanting out is going to be more complex than just any single reason. I’ve seen some fans already blame the Senators for spinning the situation by emphasizing Spezza’s desire to get out of this fishbowl environment, but really, what are they supposed to do?
It’s not like Bryan Murray’s going to come out and publicly acknowledge that his respected veteran captain is asking for a trade because he doesn’t have faith in ownership’s ability to afford or build a winner. It would be that much more difficult for the organization to move tickets and depending you ask, the Senators don’t need to be handicapped any more than they already are.
For what it’s worth, I listened to the June 12th episode of Hockey Central in which John Shannon and Brad May appeared and discussed the Spezza news, and the following is a transcript of what was said:
Brad May: “I was upset with Jason Spezza when I heard (he had asked for a trade) – that he asked for a trade. He’s the captain – an honour bestowed upon him. Upon reflection, I went home last night. I thought about what we talked about last night. He’s played eleven years in the National Hockey League. He’s an incredibly skilled player. Has his speed dropped? I don’t know. If he puts together three months of hard work (he can be better). Everybody is allowed to do whatever they want. I think we came out last night and I said, ‘This guy is not a winner and this guy doesn’t have character,’ and I think I’m wrong on that, I really do. Although, he’s got to show me more if he does end up in another location, but Jason Spezza, I played against him in the Stanley Cup Final – this guy was a heck of a player.”
John Shannon: “That was a long time ago Brad. That was a long time ago. The thing that I would say about it and I was hard on him too, I understand that. This was an organization after the Alfredsson situation last summer, (they) felt themselves backed into a corner that they had to give him the captaincy because they were afraid how he would act if they didn’t. So they give him the captaincy and I’m not sure you saw enough out of him to be the captain and so it ended up being a double-whammy. Not only do you appoint the wrong captain, you don’t get a little spurt of energy from him and then you have a guy at end of season want out. Now, is it better for the Ottawa Senators that he leaves? Maybe it is. Maybe it is and maybe there will be that general manager out there who says, ‘I can rehabilitate Jason Spezza (if that’s the right word) to make him a better player, a better team player and help the power play’.”
BM: “My only comment to this is, if Jason Spezza wasn’t the right guy to become captain, it shouldn’t be on Jason Spezza because he accepted the role. It’s the people that were actually in Ottawa that actually put him in that role, so everybody else has to look in the mirror in that decision.”
JS: “I think there are a lot of people within that organization that have to look in the mirror for the last twelve months.”
BM: “It’s unfair and unfortunate that Jason Spezza is going to get the brunt of all that if he’s not the right guy because some guys are great hockey players who don’t want that responsibility.”
JS: “But if he lobbied for the captaincy, Brad. If he lobbied for the captaincy…”
BM: “And that I don’t know. I’m just saying that it’s not all on him if it was a bad decision.”
Audio of this conversation can be heard below. The conversation begins approximately at the 26:00 mark.