Maple Leafs Fans Could See Jason Spezza On the Ice Again

We recently wrote about a couple of ways the Toronto Maple Leafs can maximize their player’s effectiveness by thinking out of the box. In that post, we noted that if the Maple Leafs were stuck with the players they had one way to solve problems was to make changes from the inside rather than from the outside.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marner, Spezza & Giordano

Specifically, the point of our thinking is that, although Jason Spezza has retired as a player, he still remains inside the organization. And, that inside position offers the Maple Leafs some measure of flexibility it would not have otherwise.

Is There a Scenario Where Spezza Might Play Again?

While perusing through Maple Leafs’ related material we came across an article written by Ben Hodgson of the Maple Leafs Insider.  In the article, Hodgson wrote about a scenario where we could see Jason Spezza back in a Maple Leafs’ uniform next season. 

Jason Spezza Toronto Maple Leafs
Jason Spezza, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At first, we didn’t take the article seriously but the more we thought about it, the more we could see where it could happen. We aren’t saying it will happen, just that it is possible. 

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe

Here is our take on it, and how we could see it possibly working out.  

If All the Pieces Add Up for the Maple Leafs

First, with Spezza retiring, assuming he would and could have signed for another season at $750,000, his retirement removes that cap hit right off the books and also gives the Maple Leafs one more roster spot, within the 50 player contract limit, to play with.

Related: Top 5 Greatest Stanley Cup Playoff Upsets

When Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Duba hired Spezza to a management position that kept him inside the organization. In other words, the hiring keeps Spezza available if the team decides it needed another skater. It’s even possible the Maple Leafs could keep paying him the exact same amount of money they would have if he were playing. With the deep pockets Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Limited has, we could see them being willing to do that.

So, the Maple Leafs use the roster spot to bring up a player from their AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies, sign another player to a league minimum contract, or acquire a player from another team. Meanwhile, Spezza keeps skating, stays in shape, and stays physically ready.  

Spezza Might Become the Best Option

If whoever occupies the roster spot given up by Spezza, or any other player on the roster making the league minimum, doesn’t work out and the Maple Leafs feel that Spezza is a better option, they remove said player from the roster, by waiving them, trading them, or whatever. They then sign Spezza to a players’ contract and insert him into the lineup. 

Related: NHL Dream Team

While Spezza might not be in game shape, he would also not be worn down and beat up by playing all season. If he were in peak physical shape, it would not take him long to get into game shape. It would be like coming back from an injury, but without the injury.

Sign up for our regular 'Maple Leafs Newsletter' for all the latest.

This would definitely be an ingenious out-of-the-box way for Dubas and Brandon Pridham to work their salary-cap magic and keep Spezza on the team and available without using up cap space or a roster spot.

Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kyle Dubas, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Alana Davidson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Then, depending on when and if they decide to insert Spezza back into the lineup, he will have achieved the goal of playing in twenty seasons, and have a chance at scoring the five points he needs to reach the one thousand point plateau in his career. That would be special.

The Maple Leafs Would Not Be the First Team to Utilize this Possibility

If the Maple Leafs decide to go this route they would not be the first team to do so. Back in the 2019-20 season, Justin Williams retired in October of that season but came out of retirement in January and returned to the Carolina Hurricanes for the remainder of the season. By the way, Williams played 20 games, scoring eight goals and adding three assists (for 11 points) in those games. He was right on his career average.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Commentary: Spezza Was My Favorite Maple Leafs’ Player

We repeat that we are not saying this will happen, just that it could. Maple Leafs fans might not have seen the last of Jason Spezza on the ice. It would make a great story if it does happen. 

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]