In the next three weeks Bryan Murray will have a very important conversation with Jason Spezza, to see if his star centre is still happy in Ottawa.
At their season-ending meeting in April, Spezza expressed some frustration to the Senators general manager with the way his season ended. He was booed by his home fans in Ottawa during the club’s first-round playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“He was a little unhappy at the end of the year. I took it as being somewhat emotional more than anything. I haven’t talked to him in the last few weeks. I hope before July 1st to have that conversation with him,” said Murray on Wednesday afternoon.
Murray did not confirm that Spezza asked for a trade during that meeting in late April. He simply said his star player felt like he was being unfairly targeted by the fans and media.
“I got an impression that he was quite unhappy at the end,” continued Murray. “I think the coverage he felt he got and the fan reaction a couple of times left him kind of wanting a little bit. But I don’t think it’s anything beyond that. My next conversation with him will be away from the emotion of playoff time to see what we can do and what we have to do.”
Murray was quick to defend Spezza, the Senators only true offensive centreman. After returning from a knee injury in mid-January, the centre collected 38 points in his final 30 games of the regular season. He was also invited to Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp last August, a sign that he is considered among one of the most skilled players in the NHL.
“He’s not always going to satisfy everyone because he’s a skill player not a gritty run-around guy. He’s not going to hit people – but we don’t want him to do that,” Murray said. “He probably gets lambasted a little more (by the fans) than an energy guy.”
After dealing with the Dany Heatley situation last summer, the last thing that Murray wants to do is spend another summer trying to trade a superstar. The Heatley incident taught Murray how difficult it is to move a long-term contract to another team.
“It’s easy to say we should trade players. People don’t have space for six or seven million dollar players – so that’s an issue.”
Murray admitted he has talked about trading another one of his players – defenseman Anton Volchenkov. There have been no meaningful discussion between the two sides, with Volchenkov set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Murray says he has been in contact with other teams to see if they would like to trade for Volchenkov, giving them a window of exclusivity to negotiate before July 1st.
“It’s been investigated – but it’s not what we want to do,” added Murray. “I’ve talked to a couple of teams, but the money frightens some of the managers right now.”