It looked for a little while like Jason Spezza’s career was coming to an end. After struggling through his final two seasons with the Dallas Stars, Spezza was forced to settle for a one-year $700K deal with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Made a healthy scratch on opening day and several times after that, the 36-year old was barely hanging on. Things have changed since Mike Babcock was fired as head coach however, and now things are looking up for the veteran center.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet spoke with the Maple Leafs’ forward today, who explained that he is already hoping to play next season. Spezza’s “I don’t see why not” is exactly what you should expect from a player who has suddenly become a key part of Toronto’s playoff chase and looks like he has turned the clock back a decade.
Spezza’s 2.04 even-strength points/60 ranks only behind William Nylander (2.52), Mitch Marner (2.51) and Auston Matthews (2.50) for the team lead among those on the roster, meaning he’s doing more with his limited ice time than most of those younger options. Given the league minimum contract he’s on, that’s exactly the kind of bargain that will attract plenty of interest on the open market.
What isn’t clear at this point is whether Spezza would be willing to give the Maple Leafs another discount next season. For now he’ll have to just focus on getting his childhood team into the playoffs, a place he actually hasn’t spent all that much time over the years. Despite having over 1,100 regular season games in the NHL, Spezza has only 80 postseason appearances.