I want to start this note off by reaffirming my position on the Spezza trade. Personally I thought it was a disgraceful display of management by the Senators head office, though as a longtime Senators fan, I shouldn't be surprised. After all this is the same organization that decided to offer a contract to the giveaway artist Wade Redden instead of Zdeno Chara, whom they let walk right into the Boston captaincy and consequently win the Stanley Cup. This is the same team that was willing to trade the two-way monster Marian Hossa for a one dimensional sniper in Dany Heatley. Heatley fizzled out. Hossa has been to the Stanley Cup finals 4 times since leaving Ottawa, winning the hardware twice.
Do I think Spezza is going to lead a new team to Stanley Cup glory like Chara and Hossa departing the club before him? No, I don't. Dallas has certainly improved their offense by adding the Senators captain to their lineup, but Spezza is still just a very good offensive center prone to defensive lapses. Do I wish Ottawa had kept Spezza? Yes. Point a game players are very difficult to replace. Do I think that we could have kept Spezza? Unlikely. Spezza's fate was sealed when he accepted the "C" last summer. His contract re-negotiation depended on his ability to lead the team back to the playoffs, and he didn't deliver. Apart from the last twenty games or so Spezza had a rough season, and his leadership was questionable at best. Despite all this, I still can't blame the guy for wanting to leave. For a player who was still the teams most productive forward last season, and has recorded the second most points in a Senators uniform next to only Daniel Alfredsson, Spezza gets surprisingly little respect here in Ottawa. The media in this town loves a scapegoat, and evidently so does Senators management. Melnyk's criticism of the team's leadership at the end of the season was a not so subtle jab in Spezza's direction. Furthermore, Ottawa wasted valuable time during the draft brokering a deal to send Spezza to Nashville, despite knowing full well that the Predators were on his no-trade list. Then, as if it were a surprise that Spezza was unwilling to change his mind, news of the vetoed deal was leaked to the media... A shoddy attempt by Senators management to make Spezza appear as the bad guy in the situation (he's not). Bush league move by the Senators in my opinion. If you give a player a no-trade clause in his contract it is well within his rights to use it when he sees fit. I wouldn't want to go to Nashville either if I were him and I had some semblance of control over the situation. I honestly wish Spezza the best in Dallas. If he can stay healthy they're going to be beasts this year.
So what Ottawa gets in return for a player requesting a trade, but failed to move on draft day is Alex Chaisson, a second round pick, and two prospects (Alex Guptill, Nicholas Paul) whom I know little to nothing about. This is about the kind of deal I expected Murray to reel in, given that he waited too long to pull the trigger. When the 38 year old Marty St. Louis fetches Ryan Callahan and two first round draft picks for Tampa Bay, or Vancouver's trade of Ryan Kessler brings in Bonino, Sbisa, and a first round pick, it's pretty apparent that Ottawa's could have done a lot better if they had played the situation out differently.
All is not entirely lost however...
To his credit, Bryan Murray got right to work at filling the void in his roster left by the departure of Spezza by signing longtime predators forward David Legwand to a 2 year $6 mil contract today. Should Senators fans get excited? Probably not. Legwand on a good year will only collect about 50 points, where as a guy like Jason Spezza has produced at a point a game pace throughout his career. I said it in my last post and I'll say it again: A Spezza-less Senators squad is going to have trouble putting the puck in the net. Legwand will only make up some of that production and Ottawa will again have to rely on the likes of young inexperienced players like Stone, Zbad, Lazar, and Hoffman to round out their scoring. Still, signing Legwand alleviates some of the pressure that would have otherwise been placed on the shoulders of Mika Zibanejad at the 2C spot. Legwand can play comfortably at the 2C spot, or slide into the 3C spot if Zibanejad is able to earn his stripes this season. The only useful piece from the Spezza deal, Alex Chaisson, should in theory fit nicely into the Ottawa roster as a power forward with offensive upside. Think Colin Greening with more points...
MacArthur - Turris - Ryan
Michalek - Legwand - Stone
Chaisson - Zibanejad - Lazar/Neil
Greening - Smith - Condra/Hoffman
Karlsson - Methot
Ceci - Wiercioch/Gryba
Cowen - Phillips (ugh...)
What I would still like to see...
Personally, I think Ottawa is far from done the work they need to do this off-season in order to ice a competitive hockey club this fall. Without addressing our number one deficiency last season (defense) it would stand to reason that the team cannot possibly improve much. I'm hearing a lot of rumors circulating in Ottawa regarding the possible movement of defenceman Patrick Wiercioch. I for one hope these rumors are baseless... and also that Paul MacLean can figure out a way to work the extremely productive (Check his corsi!) yet strangely underused defenceman into the lineup. For starters I'd give him Chris Phillips minutes... like all of them. On top of that I think Ottawa still needs to add one more defensive piece, ideally a shutdown man with veteran experience that can actually keep up with the play (sorry again Phillips). Adding another experienced winger wouldn't hurt either, given that the average age of Ottawa's new forward crop is somewhere between just hitting puberty and the age that Jewish kids celebrate their Bar Mitzvah.
C'mon Melnyk, just a few more bucks?