We look at the possible destinations for Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton and Ryan Kesler (and Vinny Lecavalier) and how so many centers on the block at once could create a buyer’s market.
Since the end of the regular season there’s been speculation Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza could be traded. On Wednesday Senators GM Bryan Murray confirmed the center requested a trade.
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks called Murray about his captain’s availability. The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren suggests the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers as possible destinations.
Matt Larkin of The Hockey News includes the Toronto Maple Leafs on his list, but acknowledged Murray would prefer not sending Spezza to a team his Senators would have to face often. Larkin dismisses the possibility of the Canucks landing the 31-year-old center as “wishful thinking.”
Warren notes Spezza’s market value could be affected by the possibility of the Canucks’ Ryan Kesler and the San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton being shopped at the same time. Garrioch reports the Senators rumored asking price is a player, a first round pick and a top prospect. Murray’s admitted a couple of clubs have expressed serious interest in Spezza, but the GM hasn’t informed teams as to what he’ll seek in return. He claims he doesn’t really want to trade Spezza, admitting he probably won’t receive full value in a trade.
With the draft only two weeks away, it’s expected the interest in Spezza will increase, culminating in a trade by the opening day of the draft. With Kesler and/or Thornton possibly hitting the trade market around the same time, Murray could move quickly to get the best possible return.
Spezza only has one season left on his contract ($7-million cap hit, $4 million in actual salary) and becomes an unrestricted free agent in July 2015. Interested clubs could seek the right to negotiate a new contract with him before finalizing a deal.
While Spezza has a no-movement clause, he must submit a 10-team no-trade list. It’s rumored he won’t accept being dealt to a Canadian team. If so, that takes the Maple Leafs and Canucks out of the running. The Predators, Panthers and Stars could all use an experienced first-line center, but Spezza might prefer being dealt to a contender.
That makes the Ducks and Blues as the likely destinations. Both clubs are well stocked with young players and prospects to tempt Murray. The Ducks, however, could be the front-runners. They have a recent trade history with the Senators, having shipped Bobby Ryan to Ottawa last summer for a return that included the Senators 2014 first-round pick (10th overall). If the Ducks are seriously interested in Spezza, Murray could try to get that pick back as part of the return.
FANS HOLD THORNTON’S FUTURE IN THEIR HANDS?
If the San Jose Sharks hope to trade veteran center Joe Thornton this summer, it will take more than management pressure to do so.
John Thornton, Joe’s brother and agent, told the San Jose Mercury-News’ David Pollak his client is perfectly happy living and playing in San Jose and wants to help the Sharks win the Stanley Cup. He says Joe might change his mind if Sharks fans no longer wanted him on their team.
Earlier this season, Thornton signed a three-year contract extension worth $6.75 million annually. It also contains a full no-movement clause. Unless there’s a massive “Dump Joe” campaign by the Sharks faithful, Thornton will stay in San Jose.
VINNY ON THE MOVE?
The Philadelphia Flyers’ Vincent Lecavalier is another center who could enter the trade market leading up to the draft. Lecavalier’s completing the first year of a five-year contract worth an annual cap hit of $4.5 million. He also finished the season as a fourth-line center, and TSN’s Darren Dreger doubts new Flyers GM Ron Hextall wants to keep him.
Dreger notes Lecavalier has a full no-movement clause, but he claims agent Kent Hughes spoke to Hextall about moving his client. If Flyers management wants to trade Lecavalier, he’ll have to provide a list of destinations.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi speculated the Nashville Predators could make a pitch for Lecavalier. Former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is now the Predators bench boss, and Carchidi believes he could try to convince GM David Poile to pursue the 34-year-old. While the Predators need offensive depth, it doesn’t make sense to gamble on an aging player.
Speaking of the Flyers, they were recently linked to Canucks center Ryan Kesler. Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly, however, dismisses that notion. “Just what the Flyers need: another $5 million center whose best years are behind him,” writes Panaccio, referring to their signing of Lecavalier.
While acknowledging the difficult roster decisions facing Hextall, Panaccio points out the Flyers have too many centers. He believes their priorities are landing a sturdy top-two defenseman and a scoring left winger.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.