PHILADELPHIA – The first round of the 2014 NHL Draft came and went Friday with Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray unable to find a trade partner for captain Jason Spezza.
One of the components Murray was seeking in a deal for Spezza was a first-round draft pick. With that window now closed, the parameters of an acceptable deal will have to change, potentially making it more difficult to accommodate the request by his top center to be traded.
Murray said there was an initial group of four or five teams who expressed interest in acquiring Spezza, three of which he considered to be serious. But interest appeared to dry up rapidly on Friday.
"A couple of the teams that I was talking to didn't come with a presentation [Friday], for the most part," Murray said at the conclusion of the first round of the draft. "I talked to a number of general managers that initially called and talked, and it just didn't go anywhere."
Murray was in this position before, when Dany Heatley demanded a trade about a week before the 2009 draft, and was unable to consummate a transaction at the draft. Heatley had a full no-trade clause five years ago, but Spezza's is limited to 10 teams to which he can refuse to be traded.
The Senators did not have a first-round draft pick this year and Murray would have liked to be able to give his scouting department a chance to work Friday by acquiring one. With that no longer an option, Murray isn't sure how he will adjust his idea of a fair return for Spezza.
"The first-round pick was part of a package, and it wasn't an early first-round pick that I was talking about," Murray said. "Does it change? I don't know. I really don't. We know we have to get return for a quality player, and unfortunately it didn't happen today."
When Murray was asked if it was possible a Spezza trade could happen on Day 2 of the draft Saturday, he asked reporters to get the word out that he would be happy to speak with any general manager who might want to discuss a deal. But Murray also acknowledged the likelihood of anything happening on the Spezza front this weekend dropped dramatically Friday.
"The odds appear to be that way," Murray said, "but I have no idea."
Though he insisted the draft was not a make-or-break event for a trade to be finalized, Murray did evoke the possibility of Spezza being back in a Senators uniform next season.
"This is not a deadline by any means," Murray said. "We don't start hockey until mid-September, we have a number of things that could happen. It's just a matter of having conversations with the right people.
"If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't we have a really good player on our team next year."
Murray's work may have been complicated prior to Friday by the presence of Ryan Kesler on the trade market, but the center was traded by the Vancouver Canucks to the Anaheim Ducks early in the day, potentially leading teams that may have been in on the Kesler talks to circle back to the Senators.
However, that seemingly never happened, meaning that Murray needs to work within the confines of what may be another artificial "deadline" of sorts with the opening of the free-agent market on Tuesday.
Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent that day and if he decides to sign with a team in need of a center, it could intensify interest in Spezza from teams in need of a center who missed out on Stastny.
But the opening of free agency is also a day when teams tend to spend a lot of the money available to them under the salary cap, which the NHL and National Hockey League Players' Association announced Friday was set at $69 million for the 2014-15 season.
Spezza has one year remaining on his contract at a salary-cap charge of $7 million, though his actual salary will be $4 million, so teams will need to have enough salary-cap space to absorb the financial hit.
But the most important thing remains, at least in Murray's eyes, that the Senators adequately replace what they would be giving up in Spezza, a legitimate top-six forward who had 66 points in 75 games this past season. Murray knows he is likely lose the trade because the best player involved will be going the other way, but he wants to mitigate that loss as much as he can.
"We've got to get some value for a really good hockey player," Murray said, "and that wasn't out there at this point."