OTTAWA – Bryan Murray wants to do right by Jason Spezza, but not at the expense of the Ottawa Senators.
Ottawa’s general manager said he’s had discussions about trading his captain but will not make a move unless he can get an acceptable return.
“I don’t think when you trade a player of Jason’s calibre that you ever win,” Murray said on Thursday. “I think we try to get the best return we can and then if it’s not satisfactory we can’t do it and he has a year left on his contract.”
Spezza had 23 goals and 66 points in 75 games last season. He has 251 goals and 687 points in 686 career NHL games.
Spezza has one year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of US$7 million. He has a limited no-trade clause, which allowed him to submit a list of ten teams where he would not want to play. It’s believed he would prefer to move out of Canada and the glare of the spotlight that comes from playing north of the border.
Ideally, it’s believed Murray would like to get a player who can come in and play on the team’s top two lines, a highly-ranked prospect and perhaps a first-round pick at the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, seeing as the Senators don’t have one this year.
Murray said he has heard from teams, and speculation has Anaheim and St. Louis as the front-runners.
“All we do in our business is investigate when there’s a request by a player,” said Murray. “You investigate possibilities and you talk about it and negotiate and when you negotiate it sometimes takes a week. Not very often it’s one phone call, sometimes many and in this case it appears that there will be many.”
The 31-year-old Spezza has spent 11 seasons with the Senators, the last as captain, but at the conclusion of this season it was clear he was unhappy and rumours of a trade request soon surfaced.
From the moment Spezza arrived in Ottawa as a 19-year-old, he has been a lightning rod for criticism by both fans and media and it appears he’s grown tired of it all.
“The only explanation I have is that he would like to try something different,” said Murray. “He thinks that the fingers are pointed at him quite often in Ottawa. Winning or losing he gets credit or he gets blamed and I think he feels its time to do something else.”
When asked whether or not he felt that was a legitimate cause for a trade request Murray said, “that’s not for me to judge.”
It’s not the first time a star player has requested a move under Murray’s watch. The Senators traded Dany Heatley to San Jose in 2009 after Heatley requested a move.
“I’m always disappointed that we haven’t been able to satisfy players, whether it be Jason or any other player that has ever asked for a trade,” said Murray. “But it’s probably a little more common place now.”
With the departure of longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson last season, Spezza was the reins of the club. Expectations were that the added responsibility might translate to better play away from the puck.
Over the course of the season it appeared head coach Paul MacLean grew frustrated with his captain’s play and that the two didn’t always see eye-to-eye.
“Jason told me this at the end, he understood what Paul was trying to do and that’s not the reason (he wants a trade),” said Murray. “That’s basically what he told me.”
Despite the NHL entry draft being just over a week away Murray says he feels no sense of urgency to complete the trade. At this point all it entails is a little more work on his part.
“It’s just another number of phone calls you have to make on a daily basis almost to see if you can do something to satisfy the player and the team,” said Murray. “Let me assure you we’re looking to satisfy our hockey team. We’re looking to win here. We’re trying to get return that will give us that chance. It just makes it a little bit busier that’s all.”
Notes: The Senators have signed C Mike Hoffman to a one-year, two-way deal. C Stephane DaCosta turned down an offer by the Senators and appears poised to play in the KHL this coming season. Assistant general manager Pierre Dorion admitted the team has held discussions with G Robin Lehner regarding a contract extension for the restricted free agent. The Senators have made an offer to Milan Michalek and are confident a deal can be made with the veteran winger.