Hey everyone, a bunch of us have been wondering aloud about what the summer holds in store for us, particularly with the thought that Jason Spezza may be on his way out the door. As an upgrade on defense is obviously needed, myself and a number of others have looked at possible scenarios where Spezza is traded for a top level defenseman. As the details and options have already been covered ad nauseam, I'm just going to cut to the chase and state what I want and hope will happen if Spezza is indeed moved.
With St. Louis getting the boot from Chicago in the first round, I'm hoping this means that Kevin Shattenkirk is available. A straight up Spezza for Shattenkirk deal seems fair to me, although since Spezza only has one year remaining on his contract it makes me curious whether we'd have to throw in a conditional pick for it to work for St. Louis; say a 7th rounder if Spezza re-signs with St. Louis, or a 4th rounder if he doesn't. If no pick is needed great, but let's just put that out there.
Either way, let's say that this happens; obviously we have too many contracts on defense as it is, so some d-men will now have to be moved elsewhere. Therefore, after losing Spezza's offensive production, it makes sense to then trade a defenseman or defensemen to a team needing help on the blueline for additional scoring punch up front.
Of all the teams out there, the one that sticks out as being the most logical partner for this to happen is Edmonton. Tons of talented young forwards, but no defense (or size) whatsoever. While we already traded with them for Hemsky (who I wish we could re-sign after giving up picks for him), sadly it seems that if Spezza is gone, so is he. So, who is next?
Taylor Hall is their franchise player, and is not going anywhere. Despite losing a centre in Spezza, I feel that if he is moved, we should focus on finding a winger to play with Mika Zibanejad, rather than trying to fill Spezza's shoes. Let's face it, that will be difficult, but as an early first round pick that has shown flashes of brilliance, I'd feel more comfortable giving Zibanejad players that aren't anchors for linemates and see if this helps him raise his game, than go through another circus of line changes with another centre coming back. Therefore Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as centres are now ruled out. This leaves two high end players: Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle.
I commented in a previous post that I want nothing to do with Yakupov and I stand firmly by this: acquiring a player who was worst in the entire league in +/- to play for team that had defensive issues and for a coach who want his players to "play a 200 foot game," seems like a terrible idea, regardless of what his talent level may be. So, by process of elimination, the player we then target is Eberle. With 221 points in 275 games (0.8 ppg, not too shabby) and a straight up cost and cap hit of $6M per year (through 2018 I believe?), he seems like fair value the way salaries are trending these days; particularly since he is only 24. Eberle has also has decent stats while playing on a team that has no size, drive or defensive support; coming to Ottawa, I feel he could put up even better numbers with centres like Turris, who tries hard every shift going both ways, or Zibanejad, who is a giant compared to RNH and can likely support Eberle with his size and puck possession.
So who do we give up to get him? I figure some combination of Patrick Wiercioch, Jared Cowen, Mark Borowiecki, Colin Greening, and/or a draft pick should do the trick to get Craig MacTavish interested. Now, which combination makes the most sense?
Obviously we would only give up one of either Wiercioch of Cowen in the deal, not both, and after his terrible scapegoat-worthy season, Cowen seems like the more obvious choice at the moment. Unfortunately, this season has also likely decreased his trade value, although we can hopefully sell MacT on his upside, which is actually still high as he has not played terribly for multiple years in a row. So, we offer Cowen, Borowiecki, and a pick, or Cowen, Greening and a pick and see if MacT bites. If not, maybe Cowen, Borowiecki, and Greening are offered...although I'm less a fan of this option. Maybe if MacT wants a forward more likely to score in return, we use Shane Prince or Matt Puempel as bait, and offer one of them along with Cowen and Borowiecki. Regardless, given that any of these trades provides Edmonton with both the size and defense they desperately need, let's say MacT goes for any one of them- I'll pick the Cowen/Greening/draft pick option and look at what our new roster would like like if it happens.
Note: I haven't discussed him to this point, but I like Eric Gryba and I'm hoping/assuming he is re-signed amongst all this. Given that he and Chris Phillips have similar talent sets, I'm assuming that one will then sit in the press box and provide injury support.
Defense Line Set 1 (balancing lefty and righty shooters)
Defense Line Set 2 (based on talent level, regardless of which way a player shoots)
Defense Line Set 3 (gambling that Ceci is ready to step up, and doesn't stumble the way Wiercioch and Cowen did)
The first two of these possibilities look very promising to me. On to the forwards:
Forward Line Set 1 (status quo depth chart)
???= One of Derek Grant, J-G. Pageau, Curtis Lazar, or Stephane Da Costa, whoever impresses the most in training camp. You have to figure at least one of them will stand out and be worthy of a shot. Given his play at the worlds lately, Da Costa's stock may have risen.
UFA= a random UFA brought in to support the young kids on the line, as it's best to have at least one veteran on the line to show kids the ropes if they do not have high-level talent ceilings (e.g.1st or 2nd round picks). I haven't thought too much about who this could be, but given that 3rd and 4th line players are much easier to come by and Murray has a pretty good sense of who could fit in with MacLean's system, I'm sure he could bring in someone to fill that role. Someone hopefully better than Matt Kassian...but let's not dwell on that.
Forward Line Set 2 (taking Bobby Ryan off the top line for more balance)
Forward Line Set 3 (more random and out of position)
One thing I've kept consistent as you can see is the Condra-Smith-Neil line, which would be our checking line, as none of them have the hands to really be an offensive threat, but are hard hitters and/or good defensively...when they aren't taking dumb penalties, at least (Chris Neil, I'm looking at you...).
Anyhoo, that about sums things up, and while I'd much prefer to resign both Spezza and Hemsky, this is my current "realistic dream alternative." Let me know what you guys think! Cheers