2014 NHL Offseason: Jason Spezza Requests Trade, Stars Interested?
Oooh a center.
Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators requested a trade. Reportedly the Dallas Stars are interested.
The Stars interest isn't a very tightly guarded state secret even though Ol' Buddy Bruce Garrioch doesn't list them as suitors. They're aggressively pursuing a center to put on the second line behind Tyler Seguin. Spezza is a target across the league, and there is an expectation that he could move by the time the 2014 NHL Draft begins.
Spezza has been a point per game player in his NHL career with 687 points in 686 games. His high water mark was the 2008 season at age 24 when he has 92 points. As recently as 2012 he hit 84. Having just turned 31 he should still have some years of high level play ahead of him, injuries notwithstanding. He is a right handed playmaking center who could bring some of the same elements as our profile from the other day, Joe Thornton.
Criticisms of Spezza's game are plentiful. The Hockey News Forecaster conveniently listed them for us.
The skating ability and being physically soft are common complaints.
Spezza doesn't skate into the zone with speed like the Stars generally try to do. This same issue comes up with Thornton. There are few reasons to rehash the reasons why having some highly skilled players who aren't elite skaters isn't that big of a deal, but just for the sake of acknowledging it: it isn't a big deal.
The Stars also don't need every player to be a physical force. Ideally they would always acquire perfectly rounded players, but sometimes 31 year old point per game centers are enticing too.
Turnovers are bad.
Spezza was credited with 68 last year by the mysterious real time scorers that inhabit every building in the league. That isn't ideal. But, to turn the puck over you first must have the puck. Only eight players turned the puck over more than he did. Those were Taylor Hall, Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, Ryan Getzlaf, Justin Williams, Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic, and Jamie Benn. The entire list reads like a log of the last decade of All Star games.
In short, who cares.
A real area of concern is his defensive play:
At the same time, an organization committed to cutting down on defensive mistakes must move on and try something new. So many years and so many hours of video later, Spezza has not been able to consistently add that extra element to his game, the one that separates the very best players from the very good players.
He isn't known for his defensive play, and that could be an issue should the Stars turn to him as the center behind Seguin. Neither one is known for it. Spezza had a pretty low Quality of Competition (.355) and about 55% of his starts were in the offensive zone. He doesn't kill penalties. The Stars will be relying heavily upon Cody Eakin and the as yet unnamed fourth line center to share a heavy defensive burden should Spezza be acquired.
Another thing to consider is Spezza's PDO. The Senators goaltenders had an .884 save percentage with Spezza on the ice which was the lowest on the team. Only 12 players in the entire league who got into 20 games had lower (including Alex Chiasson). I wouldn't bet on that happening again.
Spezza was a 52% Corsi player last year, but he didn't necessarily "drive the bus" at all times. That duty fell more on the shoulders of Erik Karlsson and Clarke MacArthur. We can see in his WOWYs though that his production went down with several teammates.
He did not get much in the way of results when playing with Colin Greening, Cory Conacher, or Bobby Ryan. Interestingly, he and Ales Hemsky did work well together. Should the Stars acquire Spezza it would be pretty convenient that a quality winger Spezza played well with is a free agent.
The Stars would need to acquire him before that is even an issue. He currently has a no trade clause that allows him to submit a list of ten teams to which he can't be traded.
Fortunately the Stars aren't on that list.
On TSN 1260 Tuesday morning, Dreger said that Spezza will refuse a trade to the Islanders, the Predators, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Florida Panthers; as well as to any of the other six Canadian teams in the league.
He's not going to be cheap to acquire even though he is heading into free agency after this season. He comes with a cap hit of $7,000,000, but he is only owed $4,000,000 in actual dollars this season. You're waving goodbye to the #14 pick in the draft for sure. A young player that can go right on the roster seems like a certainty with at least another solid prospect going too.
Would the Stars be willing to move that much for Spezza? If they want him they will probably have to, but to justify the cost that would need to have him signed to an extension as part of a deal. That isn't going to be cheap. He is finishing up a seven year deal that paid him $49,000,000. Marian Gaborik signed a seven year deal just yesterday with a total value of $34,125,000. Spezza is going to likely get the same years, but at a considerably higher salary.
The Stars are very likely to acquire another center soon. Spezza's name is out there, and the Stars have some level of interest. Given that Spezza is a year away from free agency the level of that interest is anyone's guess. He should be moved soon though. If the Stars are going to acquire him it would seem likely to happen by this weekend.