Vancouver Canucks shouldn’t trade for Jason Spezza

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 9: Jason Spezza
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 9: Jason Spezza /

With the Sedin twins retired, the Vancouver Canucks will have plenty of cap space to add another centre. Dallas Stars veteran Jason Spezza has been mentioned as a target, but the Canucks should look other options.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has plenty of options heading into free agency, which include using all of his cap space, making one big splash or simply staying pat and let other teams overpay for aging talent instead.

Logic would suggest that the Canucks stand pat and keep the cap space so they can have room to extend their young stars in the future. However, general manager Jim Benning has a long track record of spending money in free agency, so it’s hard to envision him staying quiet. With $14 million from the Sedin twins coming off the books, why not make a couple of moves?

The Canucks also don’t have to spend big in free agency, but they can be used as a dump for bad contracts that teams are desperate to get rid of. More specifically, perhaps a veteran centre that can fill Henrik Sedin‘s void and also provide leadership to the rebuilding squad.

Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province looked at Dallas Stars centre Jason Spezza (35 in June), as a potential trade target for the Canucks. He outlined that perhaps the Stars would be willing to eat some of the $7.5 remaining on the last year of his contract.

Kuzma also wondered if the Stars “would only want the minimum return in a trade,” while noting that the Canucks will likely stay away from “expensive and aging” free agents as they try to save up cap space.  He also threw out an idea of Spezza playing with prized prospects Jonathan Dahlen and Elias Pettersson next season.

Now, Spezza may seem like a good fit for the Canucks, but that’s because he’s a household name. The reality is that the former All-Star is well past his playing prime, as age and nagging injuries have caught up to Spezza.

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Spezza is two years removed from a 33-goal, 63-point season in Dallas. Though he showed signs of slowing down last year, Spezza still tallied a respectable 15 goals and 50 points on a non-playoff team.

But as Kuzma noted, Spezza wasn’t a favourite of now-retired head coach Ken Hitchcock, and his minutes were trimmed significantly.

Playing three minutes less a game obviously affected Spezza, and he finished with just eight goals and 26 points on the season.

On the other hand, Spezza may have just been an example of bad luck. He did post a 53.2 Corsi For percentage, so we know the possession skills aren’t gone.

However, Spezza finished with a lowly 5.8 shooting percentage (well below his career percentage of 13.0), which could signal he was just a victim of bad luck. Playing bottom-six minutes without scoring wingers can obviously be attributed to a down season for Spezza, too.

But there are better options for the Canucks to pursue in a trade or in free agency. You don’t want an older version of Brandon Sutter, especially if he has a long injury history (he’s been plagued by back problems for a few years now).

And is Spezza as great of a leader as we’re used to being told? He requested a trade from the Ottawa Senators after the 2013-14 season, and yet they made the playoffs without him two years later.

In fact, Spezza and the Stars have missed the postseason in three of his four years with the team. Certainly, stronger leadership would mean the star-studded Stars didn’t keep missing out on the playoffs.

If the Canucks want to make the playoffs, why not look at bringing back Thomas Vanek? He mentored rookie Brock Boeser, and the two formed a strong friendship. Vanek also loved Vancouver and would probably love to rejoin the west coast.

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Unless the Stars are so desperate to get rid of Spezza that they offer a mid-round pick and/or decent prospect in a trade, the Canucks need to avoid going for a past-his-prime talent. This is a rebuilding team, and Spezza’s well past the stage of his career where he could help mentor the younger players as they develop and mature more next season.