Trade Most Likely Path to Offense

OTTAWA, ON - APRIL 24: Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators works on his stick during a break in action against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quaterfinals in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Place on April 24, 2010 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

If there’s any consensus about the Flames current situation, it’s that the club lacks offense. Let’s be more specific and say that the lacks club high-end difference makers, especially with the way Iginla struggled to take on the big boys last year. While I’m actually fairly high on some of the Flames depth guys (Glencross, Moss, Dawes, Hagman) the fact of the matter is, the club doesn’t currently possess a top 6 that will contend with the better teams in the league.

Stajan, Langkow, Iginla, Bourque and (other) can get things going versus the lower end, but are a good bet to struggle against the Datsyuks, Crosbys and Toews of the world. In addition, Calgary’s collection of PP-capable forwards is modest, to say the least.

On top of the Flames already well publicizied cap constraints, the unfortunate truth of the matter is the UFA pool this summer is extremely shallow. Gone are Patrick Marleau and Thomas Plekanec, recently re-signed by their respective clubs. The lone, available superstar forward won’t be worth the contract he lands. So even if Calgary had all the cap room in the world this off-season, there’s a chance it wouldn’t put much of a dent in their need for a big cannon.

Which is why a trade for a flashy name isn’t out of the question. Guys like Spezza and Savard are being publically shopped as we speak and both would provide the sort of high-end offensive abilities the team currently lacks. Savard is older and coming off a severe concussion, but he’s also $3 million cheaper than Spezza and has a solid history of out-playing tough competition. Savard is 32 years old and his contract technically extends to 2017.

However, with the final three seasons paying out at 1.5M, .525M and .525M respectively, the truth is Savard could retire as early as 2014 and not lose out on any significant salary. In effect, it’s a $6.5M contract structured so the cap hit comes in at much more budget friendly $4M.

Jason Spezza is a tougher sell. Naturally gifted with more than a few years of elite production behind him, Spezza is younger and didn’t have his brains recently scrambled, but does come with a much larger cap hit and other question marks. Spezza doen’t have great possession stats on his side, but has indeed played tougher competition in OTT for years and put up some noteworthy numbers.

That said, he’s also played with great players during his career as a Senator, including Alfredsson, who has been a heavy lifter since forever. That muddies the waters somewhat given we can’t be terribly sure Spezza’s the guy driving the bus in OTT. He’s also not the hardest guy to play against and is prone to the odd neutral zone gaffe. As such, his $7M/year contract isn’t a trivial risk, especially given the Flames constant fight to stay under th cap ceiling.

Of course, as with all trade talk, the viability of the deal from a Flames perspective swings on who they have to give up to make it work. A centerpiece guy like, say, Robyn Regehr would likely have to be involved in a Spezza deal. The Bruins would be more interested in shedding salary, so someone of value but lesser dollars would have to be in the equation there (Ian White? Mark Giordano?).

The Flames don’t have a lot of quality players who are good bets to outperform their contracts, so any talk of throwing in Giordano or Dawes should be met with skepticism. On the back-end, the Flames are 8 NHL defenders deep with the likes of Matt Pelech looking to make the leap. If there’s anywhere the org can potentially lose some quality and survive, it’s there. Naturally, the Phaneuf deal was kinda, sorta Sutter’s foray into that territory already, but unfortunately it only yielded capable depth players.

So, Flames fans…does Regehr + make sense for Jason Spezza? Would you move White + for Mark Savard? Because something similar may be the only way Sutter can firm up the team’s greatest area of weakness this summer.

  • Flamesfever

    Whoever doesnt want to see Spezza in Calgary is NUTS, first off he just turned 27yrs old and in his prime, he makes any player look good around him, last year after his injury he went on a scoring streak, yea hes a cap hit of $7mill but for a player like him its worth it, he is what Iggy needs, he can dangle in the zone himself and Iggy doesnt have to do all the work, yes Spezza makes mistakes, all creative players make mistakes cause they take risk, Calgary needs a player like him, Savard is one big hit away from a season ending concussion, Ottawa needs Dmen as they lost Volchenkov and Reggie fits the bill, Langkow is a good 2 way player they can use as im sure Fisher can move to #1 line, and i dont mind throwing in a White, as we have great Dmen in the farm team that can make a jump, what calgary lacks is letting there younger players play in the big leagues, look at teams like Buffalo, Nashville, Colorado etc they are all giving young guys a chance, it seems like we take a decade to develop our players
    Neways trade for Spezza he is what Iggy and the flames need

  • Flamesfever

    From 08/09 trade deadline:

    Whoever doesnt want to see Jokinen in Calgary is NUTS, first off he just turned 30yrs old, still in the tail-end of his prime, he makes any player look good around him, he’s had two 90 point seasons and a 70 point season, yea hes a cap hit of $5.25 mill but for a player like him its worth it, he is what Iggy needs, he can shoot the puck all by himself and Iggy doesnt have to do all the work, yes Jokinen makes mistakes, all creative players make mistakes cause they take risk, Calgary needs a player like him.

    Neways trade for Jokinen he is what Iggy and the flames need

    • RCN

      In fairness, Spezza IS the playmaking center that Jokinen is not and never was.

      I’m a Spezza fan and think he gets a bit of a bad rap. If they could unload Stajan & Regehr in the deal, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

      … then send KotalikBALLS to Russia to get him off the books and find somewhere for Sarich and/or Staios and sign Hamhuis… that’s MY fantasy!

      Just imagine making a trade to bring in Spezza with the $ nearly even, then wiping $9M off the books with the 3 cap-hazards, and THEN signing Hamhuis & Colby Armstrong. Then throw a few bucks at Jim Vandermeer if he gets bought out for a depth D and we’re set!

      *sips on kool-aid*

    • Flamesfever

      …you write that:

      The “playmaker” or “setup guy” labels are packaged fluff, and more to the point they aren’t the most accurate descriptors to begin with.

      …but then you go on to describe how (I’m not even going to dwell on the point that Heatly and Marleau are first line players with or without Thornton):

      I mean crap just in this past season you could see examples of good players dragging lesser players around…Thornton with Heatley and Marleau.

      …So Thornton is not a setup guy? Craig Janney and Adam Oates weren’t setup guys? I’m not saying Spezza is anywhere near as good a play maker as the aforementioned players, or even as good of a setup guy as Savard, but like the last poster said, we’d be crazy not to go after avaliable talent.

      …maybe my point on Gretz was a little off center, but the fact remains that he had Kurri and Anderson for a good portion of his time with the Oil. But the fact of the matter is good, complementary players, make each other better.

  • Flamesfever

    In fairness, Spezza IS the playmaking center that Jokinen is not and never was.

    Nothing in his profile or in my time watching him gave me the impression he was more of a “playmaker” than any other centre. In fact the opposite, see above.

    Also, on playmakers vs. shooters – why is it so important? Good players inevitably see the puck go into the offensive zone and the scoring area (and by extension into the net) more often in their team’s favor than the opponent’s favor. That’s what’s important.

    I mean there are different ways to do those things but in the end it’s more important that you’re able to do those things. And the context in which you do them, paramount. The style in which you get the job done, it’s secondary.

  • Flamesfever

    That said, RossCreek, Stajan + Regehr for Spezza is something that I would do.

    I don’t forecast Spezza in a tough-minutes role. But he could help our stagnant PP and on a Langkow-led team he could help boost even strength offence. It’s a hell of a price to pay but there it is.

    In any case, that is why I balk at all trades involving Langkow Spezza. But Stajan at his price is a terrible bet IMO, I wouldn’t hesitate to get rid of that contract.

    • RCN

      A couple months back, I planned on doing a Stajan v. Langkow post. At the end of the day, I wasn’t sure I believed myself, so I let it slide.

      My hope when they got Stajan was that he was a younger, cheaper, (less gritty) version of Langkow. In some ways, I still think he is, but in others… well, I just couldn’t convince myself that he could play against the top guys. If you look up their point totals at similar ages, they’re pretty close to the same. Stajan being younger, isn’t as fine-tuned as Lanks, but my hope was that in time, Stajan would pick up some of those intangibles with experience. He’s got good size & is a decent all-around player, but like I said, I just could’t convince myself he’d eventually do it… and he wasn’t exactly a favorite of mine while in Toronto. Here’s the #’s… someone convince me!

      Langkow (09/76)
      Yr 1 – (20) 79-15-13-28
      Yr 2 – (21) 68-08-14-22
      Yr 3 – (22) 78-14-19-33
      Yr 4 – (23) 82-18-32-50
      Yr 5 – (24) 71-13-41-54
      Yr 6 – (25) 80-27-35-62
      Yr 7 – (26) 82-20-32-52

      Stajan (12/83)
      Yr 1 – (19) 69-14-13-27
      Yr 2 – (21) 80-15-12-27
      Yr 3 – (22) 82-10-29-39
      Yr 4 – (23) 82-16-17-33
      Yr 5 – (24) 76-15-40-55
      Yr 6 – (25) 81-19-36-55
      Yr 7 – *next season

      **Stajan’s 20 yr old year was the lockout year; played in AHL (80-23-43-66), would’ve been his 2nd NHL season otherwise.
      ***Age at start of season.

  • Flamesfever

    …So Thornton is not a setup guy? Craig Janney and Adam Oates weren’t setup guys? I’m not saying Spezza is anywhere near as good a play maker as the aforementioned players, or even as good of a setup guy as Savard, but like the last poster said, we’d be crazy not to go after avaliable talent.

    Thornton has his (fairly unique) style of play to get the puck in the scoring area, he’s pass-first to the extreme. However, that description completely wipes away his other much more important qualities. He’s a good determiner of the zone, fairly tough to knock off the puck. He doesn’t blow you away with his ability to win puck battles but he’s no weakling. His game is a bit perimeter but he makes it work.

    I mean “playmaker” doesn’t really describe why Thornton is effective. “Playmaker” is such a bland and non-descriptive term. In its usual definition, it doesn’t nearly apply to every centre in the league. I’d prefer if you were to extoll the virtues of players you like, that you actually outline what those virtues are. Instead of using a canned term.

  • Spezza is a gamble. He wasn’t that dominant even with Heater and Alfredsson. At 7 million a season, I would not like that deal so much especially considering what we would have to give up.

    Savard would be nice. A 4 million cap hit is perfect. He may also be too expensive. Remember, many teams are looking for a 1st line/2nd line Centre.

  • Spezza for Reggie? In a second i’d make that deal. Reggie is growing old and slowing down, i also think he is a problem in the dressing room and is too cozy with Sutter. Though the cap would be hard, Spezza’s raw talent for a stay at home d-man, it’s a no brainer. As for Savy, the guys at the Fan would love that too much, they’d have the “Savy report” every day.

  • I am probably in the minority, but I don’t see Sutter getting a number one Centre this season.

    We already have 3 top 12 guys. By all accounts they won’t move Backlund. They just signed Stajan to a multi-year deal. Langkow has a NMC which he apparently signed for his family stability.

    King’s recent comments, the lack of anything to date (by really and team), and a possible July 1 date on the Spezza deal support that. Regher is also a probably piece and he also has a NMC.

    I think they do something, but it is probably along the lines of using the salary acquired from Kotalik and signing a player like Tanguay or Whitney. I think they stand pat up the middle.

    Moss/Dawes might get shuffled a bit if they do sign Higgins. Other then that i think they leave the top 12 alone and play around with the fourth line.

    Maybe there is some movement on D if they can move Sarich, but I don’t even think thats gonna happen. I think Sutter likes the D line the way it is.

    I actually don’t mind the team with Kotalik gone and a top line passer added. I think the team is better with a top line centre, but I don’t really like what you give up to get it. Let Stajan / Langkow duke it out for top spot, and if Backlund does mature offensively see what the kids got.

  • Oyo

    everyone is really focused on the two big name guys…..

    is there any other legitimate players (centers) we could possibly be looking at??

    aka, staal, frolov, olesz…..