Remind the Senators Jason Spezza Is Not Dany Heatley

OTTAWA, ON - APRIL 24: Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators plays the puck as Alex Goligoski #3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins defends in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quaterfinals during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Place on April 24, 2010 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

You know a player is taking a beating when the anger floating around him actually creates a positive backlash.

Jason Spezza is now in the middle of a positive backlash.

James Gordon has a nice post defending Spezza.

This comes on the heels of an Ian Mendes defense of Spezza.

Gordon argues Spezza has strong numbers and that, while his cap hit is high, there are worse deals in the NHL.

I have no problem with Spezza’s numbers but his cap hit is awful. And obviously there are worse deals in the NHL, but that doesn’t make Spezza’s contract any better. Misery loves company, but the company doesn’t provide any cap relief.

The issue with Spezza doesn’t have much to do with Spezza so much as it has to do with Dany Heatley.

Heatley’s exit out of Ottawa really scarred the Senators, mostly because it put the team in such a horrible negotiating position, as one might expect when a player publicly demands a trade (the Senators are expected to buyout Jonathan Cheechoo, who came over when Heatley was traded to San Jose).

You can tell the Senators don’t know whether to try and keep Spezza happy or trade him before he becomes Heatley toxic or his no-trade clause kicks in.

Although Spezza is a strong player I don’t think Ottawa could get much back for him, given his serious cap hit. I think teams might be willing to take on Spezza to give Ottawa cap space, but I don’t think a team would take on that much salary and give up a significant player. Best case scenario might leave Ottawa Spezza-less and with some prospects.

Instead, if I’m the Ottawa Senators, I’m going to make sure Spezza wants to play in Ottawa. If he does, I’m going to help him work on his defensive game. I’m going to help him understand just how important a two-way game is. And I’m going to explain that a solid two-way game might get the press and fans off of his back when the season starts.

And if Spezza does want to leave Ottawa, I’m going to ask him to keep it quiet. I’m going to ask him for a list of teams he won’t accept a trade to and then we’re both going to agree to stick to the list.

The Spezza situation is anything but dire. He’s a young, productive player with a lot of upside. His limitations can be addressed. But only if the Senators recognize Spezza isn’t Heatley and probably isn’t going to publicly demand a trade out of Ottawa at an inopportune time.

The Senators can improve Spezza and make sure he’s reasonably content in Ottawa. That’s not pandering – that’s protecting your investment.