Spezza and Other Stuff

429248987.jpg  This is a man who can afford an expensive cup of coffee and a new suit.  More on that in a bit.

Reports on Spezza’s groin are that he could not have played today if there was a game.  I’m guessing that he won’t be ready this weekend, and let’s face it; the Sens are in a position where they can wait. 

Robitaille’s face is fine after last night’s belly flop so I expect him back on the Pizza line for the weekend.  He could have played in the third period last night, but the Sens were up 5-0, so they told him to get into his street clothes for the night.  Unfortunately, the rest of the Senators thought the training staff was talking to them. 

Here’s something interesting:  Jason Blake, of the Toronto Maple Leafs no less, said that the Senators are the most difficult team to play against.  And, those of you who know hockey, know that when a player says something like that, they’re not only talking about the talent level of the team.  They’re referring to the grit and hustle as well.  I’m sure Darcy Tucker got in Blake’s ear to discuss this with him.  Something along the lines of “you can respect the Senators, but don’t ever tell anyone that you do”.  I’m sure the last thing the Leafs (and their fans) want the Senators to know is that the Sens are in the heads of the Leafs players.  That role had been reversed, at least in the playoffs.  Jason Blake, bless his soul, just gave away some of the Leafs’ Mystique.  I see they didn’t bench him for tonight.  Maybe that mystique was already gone.  I know it has been for me.

Today, Jason Spezza received a 7 year, $49 million contract extension from the Senators.  On the face of it, that’s good news for the Senators.  He’s a very talented hockey player and his chemistry with Dany Heatley is well documented.  I know Leafs Nation was hoping they could get their hooks into him when his contract was up, given that he’s from the Toronto area.  Again, I repeat….NOT EVERYONE ON THE PLANET HAS A BURNING DESIRE TO PLAY FOR THE LEAFS.

[as an aside, I’m watching the Leafs right now and they look like they’re still tired from their bag skate two days ago.]

Anyway, back to Spezza….When the Senators signed Heatley for $7.5 million/season, this is the number I had pegged for Spezza to keep him in a Senator’s uniform (and I believe I predicted they would sign him in a post just a few days ago).  The ramifications of this signing are many.  First of all, let’s talk about Daniel Alfredsson and his $4.3 million paycheck.  That’s what he’s getting paid this year and through 2012, according to The Hockey News.  I have to admit, I thought his contract expired after next season.  The Hockey Talking Heads were talking about either a club or player option; perhaps that’s where the other 3 years come from.  Of course, it’s pretty important which side has the option, if that’s indeed the case.  In any case, people from the outside might be looking at this, and the way Alfie has played the last two seasons, and wonder if some professional jealously might creep in.  Heatley and Spezza are both very skilled hockey players, but Alfredsson is not a huge leap behind them in that department and he is the glue that holds it all together.  While I personally feel for Alfredsson in this scenario (sure, he still makes a little more money than I do), my guess is that even if this does bother Alfie, no one will ever know it and you’ll never notice it on the ice.  That’s just the kind of person he seems to be.   When Muckler was GM, he had a policy that no player would make more than Alfredsson.  It might have been ego stroke, but it’s more likely that Mucks just used it as a bargaining chip, “Who do you think you are?  You wanna make more than Daniel Alfredsson?”  My sense is that Alfredsson is just very happy playing and living in Ottawa and my guess is that you will see him in a front office role for the Senators when he hangs up the blades. 

Well, there’s much more to it than just Alfredsson, unfortunately.  The Senators now have $42 million in salaries committed for next season.  They have 9 roster spots that don’t have contracts for next year.  The cap this year is $50 million.  I could see it going to $53 million for next season given the new jersey sales and the 17% increase in my Wild season ticket price.  So, if my arithmetic is correct, that’s $11 million for 9 roster spots, barring trades and they probably want to keep $2 million or so in the bank for call-ups and deadline deals, so $1 million for each roster spot. 

The Senators have Redden, Vermette, Kelly and Meszaros (among others) up for new contracts and none of the 4 are going to be willing to play for $1 million given the current market rates for players of their caliber.  I could see a player making $6.5 million foregoing $500,000 to play somewhere he likes, but it’s a completely different story for someone making $1 million.

Redden: Bryan Murray is saying all the right things, “We’re going to talk to Redden and see where they’re at.  We’d like to keep him in the mix.” (or something like that)  But, the reality is, even if they were to move a goalie and Joe Corvo, that is not likely to free up the space they would need to pay Redden his market value and for some reason, I don’t see him accepting a $3 to 4 million/year contract to stay.  (remember the 6500 square foot house he’s building in Kelowna?)  I would say the biggest question with Redden is whether or not they trade him at the deadline (or before) or whether they just take their shot at the Cup with him and let him walk when the season is done.  In my opinion, messing with chemistry at the deadline is just too dangerous for this team.  If Redden is still with the club much past Christmas, I’m thinking that he’s staying for the run.  That’s the long of it.  The short of it is that Sens fans should just get comfy with the fact that Redden won’t be with the team next season.  I think many of us are. 

The more interesting situations lie with Kelly, Vermette and Meszaros; all important role players for the team.  Kelly and Vermette make up one of the best penalty killing tandems in the league.  Meszaros is a good, young defenseman and if you’re paying attention to the league at all, you know that they don’t just grow on trees; or even very large bushes. 

Given that Volchenkov signed with the team for $2.5 million/season, Murray might be able to convince Meszaros that $2 million is the right number for him.  It’s likely that his actual market value is closer to $2.5 – 3 million.  The question becomes, is someone willing to float an offer sheet his way and can Murray convince him to sign for less before it becomes an issue? 

Kelly is getting more and more press, both in Ottawa and around the league.  His market value, even with his stoney hands, is probably $2 – 2.5 million.  Much like Fisher, he gladly does all the work that most hockey players do grudgingly or not at all.   He’s making $1.2 million this year.  If they can get him for $1.8 million, they’ve done well. 

Vermette can probably get $3 million elsewhere and he is probably the least likely to stay.  Murray didn’t show him much respect last year.  I’m not going to get into a I’m smarter than you war with Bryan Murray (mostly because he doesn’t know I exist, but more because I’m probably not), but I think Vermette has deserved a shot on one of the top two lines.  He’s fast and has nice hands.  Maybe his board work isn’t exemplary, but he back checks and that’s half the battle with most offensive forwards. 

That’s all I know (or can remember) for now.

 P.S.  Perhaps the saddest thing I’ve seen this year is fans in Edmonton doing “The Wave”.

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