Spezza Does Dallas: An Analysis of the Return for Spezza

An analytical review of the return for Jason Spezza.

Just an hour before Free Agency Frenzy began and after weeks of waiting, the Ottawa Senators have finally traded their latest captain, Jason Spezza, to the Dallas Stars. Many fans were hoping to have this traded completed by the Entry Draft to try and recoup the team's first round pick, previously paid in the Bobby Ryan deal, along side a young player and a top prospect. Instead, the Senators received a 2015 second round pick, right winger Alex Chiasson, forward prospect Alexander Guptill and left wing prospect Nick Paul.

Were the Senators able to get their full asking price? It is a difficult situation for Bryan Murray given that a star player wants out but is able to control where he goes. This gives him little leverage and doesn't help when he has a reasonable deal and Spezza nixes the trade. It also doesn't help when better and younger centres with cheaper contracts are on the trade market (Ryan Kesler) and available via free agency (Paul Stastny). With Murray's hands tied was he able to get fair value for Spezza? Let's take a look at each of these players.

Young winger Alex Chiasson is who the package to the Senators was based around. He's a cheap player (a plus for Melnyk) and is about to enter the last year of his entry level contract. He was considered an untouchable in the Seguin trade with Boston. This is what scout Corey Pronman had to say about Chiasson in his 2013 Dallas Stars prospect review when Alex was ranked seventh in the organization:

The Good: Chiasson is a skilled big man who protects the puck well with his 6'3'' frame, while displaying a solid amount of physicality. He has solid, if not above-average puck possession ability. Chiasson shows fine hand-eye coordination in tight. His decision making has shown significant improvements to the point where it is now a strength, as he reads the game at a fine level. He has a high-end shot as well.

The Bad: Chiasson's skating has come along, but he is still slightly below average in that regard. It is also questionable exactly how much offensive upside he has.

Projection: He could be a good third line power winger with a chance to play on a scoring line.

Turning 24, he just came off a season where he scored 35 points (13 goals and 22 assists) in 79 games for the Dallas Stars with no concerning high (or low) shooting percentages. He had a 49.5% Corsi and a -1.5% Corsi Rel which will likely improve as he continues to develop. Chiasson was in a somewhat sheltered role given his high zone starts for his team (55%) while facing some of the weakest competition.

It's likely that Chiasson will be in a top 9 role, possibly a top 6 role. He is the best player coming back to Ottawa in the Spezza trade but it's unlikely he will be able to fill the scoring void that Jason has left.

The second forward that the Sens received back were Alex Guptil who was drafted in the third round (77th overall) in the 2010 Entry Draft. For the last three seasons Guptil has been playing at the University of Michigan but he has forgone his senior year and this upcoming season will likely see him in Binghamton. In his three NCAA seasons, he has had 33, 36 and 25 points to lead the team (.81, .95 and .81 PPG with a 13.1, 11.1 and 9.7% Shot Percentage respectively). In 5 games with the Texas Stars this year he earned a -15.0% Goal-For rel% which, with a sample size that small, is nothing more than trivia at this point. While he is in the good, but not quite elite category of forwards in the NCAA it is likely that he can be a top-6 player in the NHL. Here's what Pronman had to say about Guptil, while ranking him ninth of Dallas' prospects:

The Good: Guptill is a toolsy forward with a lot of elements to his game. He can skate and handle the puck at above-average levels. Guptill's first few steps are powerful, and with a decent power game, he can be tough to contain for defensemen. He is a creative forward with the offensive mind to be in on a lot of scoring chances. Guptill also has an above-average shot.

The Bad: Guptill's defense showed notable progression this year, but he could still use work in that area. He needs to gain a little more strength. He will make the odd bad decision as well.

Projection: He could be a top-six forward.

Nick Paul is the third forward to come back to Ottawa and he just finished his 18-year-old season in the OHL with the North Bay Battalion. He finished third on his team in points while facing middling competition earning near top minutes on the team. Corey Pronman said "[he] rose a little this year. Big F who is great on draws and defensively. Has some scoring touch as well."

That being said that's all that can really be said about him positively. As a 17-year-old he had .42 PPG and as an 18-year-old that increased to .68 PPG. Players in the OHL who are not able to dominate and produce at over 1.0 PPG as 17-18 year-olds rarely make it to the NHL. While Paul has been invited to the Sens prospect camp this week, I suspect he will spend two more years in the OHL and maybe will earn a cup of coffee in the AHL.

The second round pick was also thrown in which will ultimately be a crapshoot with only ~25% of second round picks becoming regular NHL players. That being said the Senators do have great scouting talent. While it won't be the first round pick they lost on Bobby Ryan, it still provides an opportunity to the organization.

Ludwig Karlsson was also thrown into the mix, from Ottawa to Dallas, likely to make it a "package" deal. Not much digital ink will be wasted on him; a player who can't produce at a high rate in the ECHL isn't likely to spend much time in the NHL.

Keeping all these factors in mind, we need to go back to the original question and ask if the Sens were able to obtain good value in the trade for Spezza. While the simple answer is no, they turned a dollar into seventy five cents. Given the tough situations they were in with the lack of trade partners and lack of leverage, I think they Bryan Murray did the best job he could. He wasn't going to be able to fill the void that Spezza left, but he did bring in some more young, talented players who can help. All that the team has to figure out now is when they are going to start spending money to stop losing talented players and start being competitive.

Source: ExtraSkater.com for NHL/CHL fancystats, myself for AHL fancystats

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