I've used this space before to speculate on a potential trade for Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators, and I'm going to do so again after seeing he and Rick Nash play together at the World Championships over the last couple of weeks.
Before throwing stats and cap numbers at you, I'll say this much- Nash and Spezza looked darned good together on Canada's top line. This wasn't the first time they've been teammates, as they were both on Team Canada at the 2008 Worlds as well. This time around however, they were coached by both former Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock, and current coach Scott Arniel. Arny was able to see the duo together first-hand, and if he had any ideas of the two playing together for him with the Jackets, he had the chance to bounce the idea off of Hitch.
While watching the two last week, joined by linemate James Neal, I couldn't help but envision Jake Voracek in the place of Neal, with Columbus sweaters on. Spezza is the perfect playmaker for Nash, he loves to pass and that's exactly the kind of center that a finisher like Nash needs.
Outside of the familiarity between Spezza and Nash, Spezza was also a former teammate of current Jacket Antoine Vermette. They played together in Ottawa, and Vermy even went to Spezza's wedding.
In recent seasons, Spezza's numbers have fallen off a bit, mainly due to the Senators being a weak club, and Spezza not having a top sniper on his wing. Here are his stats for the past four seasons:
He is capable of returning to the 70-90 point range he put up from 2007 to 2009 with a top goal scorer like Nash on his wing. You also can't forget that Spezza has size- 6-3, 216. While he doesn't always use it, he is still no slouch when it comes to the rough stuff. He's also a right-handed shooter, always a bonus-especially on the powerplay.
This past season, on a terrible Ottawa squad, he led the Sens in goals, assists, points, powerplay goals, shots, time-on-ice among forwards, and faceoff percentage. His faceoff percentage of 56.3% was good for 11th in the entire NHL.
Since the end of the season, with talk from the Columbus front office that despite the financial losses, they'd be willing to add payroll to make the team better- adding Spezza's contract wouldn't be a deal-breaker.
Spezza is under contract for the next four years, at a cap hit of $7.0 million a season. While that may strike you as a high number, the Jackets have a lot of expiring contracts, and if they could shed Kristian Huselius' $4.75 million cap hit for next year, it would make it that much more palatable. At the end of the day though, Columbus isn't a cap team. They focus more on the year-to-year dollars, so the player's salary is the crucial number. While his cap hit is $7.0 million per, his salary for the next four years breaks down to $8.0 million this coming year and in 2012/2013, then drops down to $5.0 million in 2013/2014, and $4.0 million in 2014/2015. Another important point while discussing his contract is that he will be 28 next season, and still only 31 at the end of his current contract. These are his prime years.
Given the fact that he is still productive, has chemistry with Nash, and his financials can be accomodated by the team, is there still a hangup?
To acquire Spezza from Ottawa, a sizeable trade would need to take place. On one hand, Columbus will likely be getting the best player in the deal, so it will cost them. On the other hand, Ottawa is ridding themselves of a fairly large contract, which is important when rebuilding, as the Sens are in the midst of doing. As I see it, the Sens will want future assets, but from a Columbus perspective they are offering to alleviate some of Ottawa's cap pressure, so there will be some "give" from Ottawa's side.
Here's my proposal:
To Columbus: Jason Spezza
While at first glance this looks like a king's ransom, let me explain.
Huselius is a salary dump, and Ottawa would need to take his one remaining year at $4.75. He is a UFA after next year, so Ottawa is only on the hook for the one season. He could play on the opposite wing of countryman Daniel Alfredsson, giving the team a decent offensive punch while they rebuild. Mayorov is nearing the point where he is ready for full-time NHL duty, but would be lost in a numbers game in Columbus. He has the potential to be a very good power forward, and would be given ample opportunity in Ottawa. Goloubef is a talented player, and is still developing. He would be valuable to a team like the Sens, who could use the former second rounder in their attempt to restock the blueline. David Savard makes this move comfortable from a Columbus perspective.
The big price comes in the form of the three draft picks. Columbus wouldn't pick until the third round, but it's time for Columbus to focus on becoming better at the NHL level, rather than stockpiling young prospects.
At the end of the day, this move makes sense for both teams, and in my scenario, Columbus doesn't need to deal Derick Brassard. This would allow the Jackets to run with Spezza and Brass as the top two centers, and Antoine Vermette can move to the wing, where he played in Ottawa.
Nash - Spezza - Voracek
Umberger - Brassard - Upshall/Calvert/Filatov/Kubalik
Vermette - Pahlsson - UpshallCalvert/Filatov/Kubalik
Dorsett - MacKenzie - Boll
In this scenario, Scottie Upshall would also be re-signed. He is coming off a career year, and has chemistry with Umby. He can also play a checking role, allowing Matt Calvert to play on a scoring line, where he excelled at times last year. Nikita Filatov is still very much in the mix, but this upcoming season is his last chance to show his worth. Tomas Kubalik was a pleasant surprise last season in his first pro season, and could be in the mix for a scoring line role if he has a good camp. The third line is defensively responsible, and Vermy adds a dose of offense to the line. The fourth line writes itself.
Let me know what you think Columbus fans- do you even want the Jackets to pursue Spezza? You know where I stand- I think it would be a great move for the franchise, and Spezza would be a great addition to the team until Ryan Johansen is ready for prime-time. He won't be rushed as prospects have in the past.
Make it so, Howson.