Jason Spezza is almost certainly getting traded. There's been too much said in the open about it for Bryan Murray to back out now, and the only way it would not happen is if the return is so utterly underwhelming that Murray feels he's going to get a better return at the trade deadline than in the off season. That seems so unlikely that it's not even worth addressing.
Having come to terms with the Jason Spezza trade happening -- likely within the week -- what can Senators fans expect in return? Normally there would be three places to look: the team's needs, comparable trade history, and the assets available from interested teams. As the Senators' needs are top-six forwards, top-four defensemen, and high-end prospects, it seems that the first one is pointless to investigate. Let's just look at the comparable trade history and the interested teams' assets.
Finding a trade comparable to this one is extremely difficult. It's rare for a top-flight centreman to be traded at Spezza's age (31). They're either traded earlier (like Thornton, Seguin, Carter, or M. Richards were), or they're traded later. But here are some similar deals:
Mike Ribeiro for Cody Eakin & 54th overall pick
Ribeiro is not a star of the same caliber as Jason Spezza, but he was coming off 63 and 71 point seasons and had 78 and 83 point seasons to his name as well. He was 32 at the time of the trade, so a year older than Spezza. The return was Cody Eakin, a third round pick who exceeded expectations and was considered a promising prospect, and a second round pick.
Brad Richards (and Johan Holmqvist) for Jeff Halpern, Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen and a fourth round pick
Before he was a buyout candidate, Richards was a Conn Smythe winner who put up seven extremely successful seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning before being unloaded to shed salary. The result was a classic quantity for quality trade in which the Lightning received back plenty of okay pieces, but no truly great ones -- neither Jokinen nor Halpern posted more than 20 points in a season with the Lightning, and while Smith would have some good seasons with the Coyotes, his time with the Lightning was forgettable.
Olli Jokinen for Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton, and a second round pick
As with Ribeiro, Jokinen is nowhere near the offensive dynamo Spezza is nor a star on the same level. That being said, at the time of his trade he had posted seasons of 71, 89, and 91 points, and was 30 years old, making him a reasonable comparison for Spezza. Ballard and Boynton were both former first-round picks, and while Ballard was in the prime of a respectable NHL career, neither were stars. Like the Richards deal, this is more of a quantity for quality move.
Dany Heatley for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo, and a second round pick
The best comparison is likely this one, as it involved an all-star player that everyone knew wanted out of Ottawa while controlling their destiny. Heatley was 28 at the time and coming off a 72 point season, while Michalek was 24 and coming off a 57 point season. Cheechoo was 29 and the Senators hoped he could bounce back from a 29 point season.
As can be illustrated by the above trades, great players do not necessarily yield great returns -- they yield quantity. As a general rule of thumb, the team giving up the star player tends to not receive equal value for that player, as they take on a lot of the risk by acquiring young players or prospects with limited resumes.
The (Supposedly) Interested Teams
St. Louis Blues
Draft picks in first three rounds: 21, 33, 52, 82
Top Prospects: Dmitrij Jaskin, Ty Rattie
Roster players Ottawa might ask for: T.J. Oshie, Jaden Schwartz, Vladmir Tarasenko, Patrik Berglund, Kevin Shattenkirk
The Blues are considered by most to be the front runner for Spezza, and it's likely because of reports that they blame a lack of offense for not making it past the first round of the Stanley Cup Finals (instead of blaming, y'know, playing the Blackhawks in the first round).
The Senators would undoubtedly love to get Jaden Schwartz or Vladmir Tarasenko in exchange for Spezza, but it's unlikely the Blues would give up either. They are 21 and 22, respectively, are currently cheap pieces for a playoff run, and project to be core players for a while. T.J. Oshie strikes me as the type of player Bryan Murray would love on his roster, but he's a core player and fan favourite in St. Louis coming off a career year -- it's highly unlikely he's traded. Kevin Shattenkirk would give the Senators some help on the blueline, but he's a key PP guy for the Blues who might not want to give him up. Likewise, Bryan Murray may feel a team with Erik Karlsson and Patrick Wiercioch doesn't need another offensively-minded defenseman, particularly one that shoots right-handed like Karlsson.
The most common name in rumours is Patrik Berglund, who would undoubtedly be a part of a package that includes either a prospect or a draft pick. Berglund is 26, and while offensively talented, has only two seasons to his name were he exceeded 40 points. Given the giant hole Spezza will leave in point production, Berglund's talent will not be nearly enough to offset the lost scoring.
Ideal package: Jaden Schwartz
Likely package: Patrik Berglund, Ian Cole or Ty Rattie, 33rd overall pick
Draft picks in first three rounds: 10 (sigh), 24, 38, 55, 85
Top Prospects: William Karlsson, Rickard Rakell, Nicolas Kerdiles, Shea Theodore, Stefan Noesen (hah!)
Roster players Senators might ask for: Hampus Lindholm, Emerson Etem, Sami Vatanen, Nick Bonino, Kyle Palmieri, Luca Sbisa, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jakob Silfverberg (hah!)
Anaheim is loaded with picks and great young players, including a pick, prospect, and player they received last year from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade. Of course, what Ottawa gave up for a 26 year old winger to ease public scrutiny after watching Daniel Alfredsson walk away is certainly more than they can expect in return for a 31 year old centre with injury history.
The Senators will undoubtedly ask for Lindholm, but the reality is that they won't get him. The Ducks no doubt see Lindholm and Cam Fowler as their future on the blue-line, and would probably rather deal one of their many pieces. Sportsnet has previously suggested Sami Vatanen was available at the trade deadline, and if that's still the case the Senators would have to be interested in the very talented blueliner (who is currently a restricted free agent).
There are plenty of rumours saying that the Senators are interested in Nick Bonino (and hilarious comments by Ducks fans suggesting Bonino alone is too much to give up), and it'd be a classic case of buying high on a player who had a career year. I'd go into more detail about why that's a bad idea, but Yost beat me to it.
Ideal Return: Sami Vatanen, Nicolas Kerdiles, and 38th overall pick
Likely Return: Nick Bonino, Rickard Rakell and 38th overall pick.
Draft picks in top three rounds: 14, 45, 75
Top prospects: Brett Ritchie, Jamie Oleksiak, Devin Shore, Kevin Connauton, Radek Faksa, Ludwig Bystrom, Cameron Gaunce, Jason Dickinson
Roster players Ottawa might ask for: Cody Eakin, Brenden Dillon, Alex Chiasson, Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley
Dallas seems like a poor trading partner for the Senators, but their name has been linked in rumours so it's worth examining them. They only have the standard single pick in each of the first three rounds, not a surplus like Anaheim and St. Louis, and they don't have an excess of young talent that they'd want to get rid of. The Stars have a lot of wily veterans who helped lead them to a playoff spot this year, and those are exactly the types of players the Senators would not want on their team.
Cody Eakin is likely a non-starter as the Stars will want a long-term option for second-line centre. Despite his slow start, Goligoski put up 40 points last season despite facing tough competition, and is signed for another two years at a reasonable $4.8M cap hit. Brenden Dillon seems like the type of player Ottawa might covet -- a big, young defenseman with respectable possession stats who played big minutes against tough competition. Trevor Daley just had a great year and is signed to a $3.3M contract until 2017, but at 30 years of age and with a no-trade clause he makes a poor trade target.
Ideal outcome: Alex Goligoski, Jason Dickinson
Likely outcome: Brenden Dillon, Radek Faksa, 45th overall pick
Tampa Bay Lightning
Draft picks in top three rounds: 19, 28, 50, 80
Top Prospects: Too many to list. My goodness.
Roster players Ottawa might ask for: Radko Gudas, Tyler Johnson, Teddy Purcell, Alex Killorn, Mark Barberio, J.T. Brown
The Tampa Bay Lightning are reported by Nick Kypreos as a dark horse in the hunt for Jason Spezza, and it's probably because they are waist deep in incredible young talent. They may have more potential top-line forward prospects than all Canadian teams combined, so why not give up one or two of them to nab Jason Spezza for the time being? Tampa has more great prospects than roster spots available, and the last time they traded with the Senators it worked out pretty well for them.
Ideal outcome: Radko Gudas, Brett Connolly, 28th overall pick
Likely outcome: Teddy Purcell, Mark Barberio, 28th overall pick.
These are, of course, complete stabs in the dark and almost certainly way off. Do you think that the Senators will get more back for Spezza? Or will they get less back?