Sure, there was a time where Tampa Bay was the Wild Wild West of the NHL. Anything went and you never really knew what the plan was, what was likely, what was going to happen next.
That time is passed.
There is a plan. Draft. Develop. Get high quality players at the NHL level on ELCs or RFA deals where the value they provide exceeds the salary they earn. Then reload the cupboard and do it all over again, moving out any in-house assets that don't fit the plan any more and occasionally making a deal in a trade or signing a UFA to plug a hole.
Trading for 31-year old centers with one year left on their deals (at a $7 million cap hit, $4 million in actual salary) and lingering back problems just doesn't seem to fit that plan very well. Jason Spezza doesn't fill a hole -- and Tampa Bay does have holes to fill.
Anyways, here's what started this latest batch of speculation, this time concerning Ottawa and Spezza:
Kypreos reporting that he hears TB is interested in Spezza— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) June 19, 2014
So, yeah. Nick Kypreos is reporting that Tampa Bay has some interest in Jason Spezza.
That's fine. He's still a useful offensive player -- 66 points in 75 games and 2.22 5v5 points/60 minutes is nothing to scoff at. If there's been any talk, it's likely Yzerman doing his due diligence, keeping his options open.
In fact, the team that had been the leading candidate to land Spezza -- the St. Louis Blues -- could make things really interesting in a potential three-team trade. There's precedent for it: Yzerman traded Steve Downie to the Colorado Avalanche for Kyle Quincey, whom he immediately moved to the Detroit Red Wings for the 1st round pick that became Andrei Vasilevskiy. If St. Louis is willing to part with Kevin Shattenkirk to get Jason Spezza, Tampa Bay could add the picks and prospects necessary to facilitate things. (Shattenkirk to Tampa Bay, Spezza to St. Louis, picks/prospects to Ottawa.)
More importantly, though, is the way that Northeastern media and fans still think Tampa Bay is the NHL's lost and found, somewhere you can come and leave the things you don't want any more and just pluck anything you like out of the box. That's not how this works. Spezza doesn't fill a need for Tampa Bay, and Steve Yzerman values 1st round picks -- and the young forwards he just signed -- very highly.
So stuff like this: (TWEETS CHOSEN AT RANDOM AND I KNOW THEY'RE PROBABLY JOKING BUT THERE ARE LOTS OF THESE)
Spezza for Drouin.— Lorne Geller (@Geller18) June 19, 2014
I'd trade Spezza for Hedmen straight up in a Hart beat.— James Creighton (@ThatFishCreigh) June 19, 2014
That's just not happening. Period. Even stuff like this:
Spezza to Tampa? Tampa does have two first rounders in this year's draft and two first rounders in 2015 thanks to the Martin St. Louis trade— The 6th Sens (@6thSens) June 19, 2014
...doesn't really make sense. Spezza doesn't fill a need for the Lightning, and just because Yzerman has acquired the picks/ammunition to make a big trade this off season doesn't mean he must just because.
There also seems to be a sentiment (perhaps because these rumors involve Ottawa) that Tampa Bay would be willing to move one of Tyler Johnson or Ondrej Palat -- fresh off Calder Trophy nominations and matching 3 year, 10 million dollar contracts -- to make a Spezza deal happen. The thinking there is that the Lightning moved Cory Conacher during a surprisingly effective rookie year to add Ben Bishop -- so why wouldn't they do it again?
I'll tell you why.
First, Cory Conacher was a different mold of player than Johnson, or Palat, who offer significantly more two-way and penalty killing value. Johnson in particular is a center, one that fills an important slot in the Tampa Bay lineup (and plays a role that neither Conacher, nor Spezza, could play). Conacher, while a quality young forward in the Lightning organization, was expendable, replaceable from within: with guys like Ondrej Palat, or Alex Killorn, who also just signed a new deal.
It also sends the wrong message to a team you're trying to "build from within" if you flip a young 'core forward' that has finally earned permanent NHL duties and a new NHL contract just weeks after signing them.
Lastly, if you were going to do that -- similar to what Yzerman did with Conacher -- it would have to be for something you need, turning an area of surplus into an area of need. Tampa Bay doesn't need a center or any more scoring forwards. They need defense, and they need it desperately: with only Victor Hedman, Radko Gudas, Matt Carle, and Eric Brewer signed so far for next season, it makes little sense to go all-in on a 31-year old center who is only signed for one more year.