With just four games left in the regular season, it’s entirely possible if not likely that Jason Spezza is playing his final games in an Ottawa Senators uniform.
682 games. 683 points. Another 52 points in his 56 career playoff games. The kind of top line, point-producing centre that every team in this league needs and only a handful have on their roster. A player that has given this city countless “Wow” moments yet always seems to be a lightning rod for criticism. His flash and propensity for the “high-risk” play has never really been fully embraced by an annoying yet significant portion of the fan base.
And as he enters the final year of a 7 year/$49 million contract, the Senators and General Manager Bryan Murray are faced with a difficult decision. With both Spezza and Ryan up for contract extensions at the end of next season, the organization has to make some tough calls about who fits with the team’s long term plan. Spezza’s health issues are no secret at this point in his career, which makes it risky to commit to him long term.
With Kyle Turris having an exceptional season and Mika Zibanejad appearing ready to take on a bigger role, there’s more reason to explore a deal. The organization’s top prospect- Curtis Lazar- is probably still a year away but is also a natural centre. There’s certainly nobody that can replace Spezza’s offensive production but the team has options down the middle.
Spezza’s name has always been a mainstay in the rumour mill. This year at the trade deadline was no different as once again, Spezza seemed to be available for the right price. The Anaheim Ducks were interested. So too were the Colorado Avalanche. You have to think the division rival Maple Leafs made a call. But a deal of that magnitude doesn’t come together over night and in the end, the Senators decided to go out and get a talented winger to play alongside Jason.
But it seems as though the ground work for a summer time deal was put in place. In fact, there were whispers around the deadline that Spezza may have actually quietly asked Murray to see what the interest was like. That maybe both sides were reaching a point where it might be time to go their separate ways. It was something I heard from multiple people in the days following the trade deadline. And something Elliotte Friedman alluded to the other day.
Bryan Murray was quick to deny the rumours when asked following the deadline.
In a season where the Senators have struggled, some fans have gone so far as to question Spezza’s leadership. Yet to a man, the players in that room will tell you Spezza was the right choice to be Captain of this team. He did everything he could as a leader on and off the ice, playing some of his best hockey down the stretch, but it just wasn’t meant to be for Ottawa this season.
Yet entering what could be a franchise defining summer for the Senators, questions about the Captain’s future linger. There’s no guarantee Spezza gets moved this summer. The Senators certainly won’t give him away and if the right deal does not come along, they are certainly willing to keep him until a sufficient offer is made.
But what you can be certain of is this- the Ottawa Senators are going to seriously explore a Jason Spezza trade this summer.