Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Spezza’s Value & Hamilton’s Availability

In this Fathers’ Day edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I want to share a rumor that Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman Dougie Hamilton might be interested in coming to the Maple Leafs. In addition, I’ll comment about just how much value Jason Spezza brings to the team and the organization as a whole.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Zach Hyman’s Axiological Decision

Item One: Jason Spezza Is a Bang-for-the-Buck Player

Luke Fox’s Quick Shift column yesterday covered several different topics. One of his most interesting sections was his commentary where he mined the transcript of a media interview where re-signed forward Jason Spezza spoke about his goals with the team. One stat stood out. Only one other NHL player not on an entry-level contract had “delivered more offensive bang for his bucks” than Spezza. That player was Conor Garland of the Arizona Coyotes.

Jason Spezza Toronto Maple Leafs
Jason Spezza, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Specifically, each of Spezza’s points cost $23,333 in 2020-21. Of all the year-end pending UFAs, Spezza was the best value points-wise. Only Garland (at $19,871), who’s a pending RFA, supplied a more efficient cost-per-point rating.

Other than age, Fox also pointed out one difference between the 38-year-old Spezza and the 24-year-old Garland. Garland, who’s last contract was $775,000, has salary arbitration and should be able to leverage his solid season into a nice raise. On the other hand, Spezza just re-signed with the Maple Leafs on his third straight NHL league-minimum contract.

In a long media interview late last week, Spezza showed his commitment to helping his team when he admitted, “If I could take less, I would. I just love playing the game.”

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Spezza spoke about his drive, “I love competing. The chase of the Cup is at the forefront of my mind daily. Anything I can do to help the team acquire better players, that is kind of why I take league minimum and move forward. It’s been a few years now, so I don’t think it is a story anymore, but I just want to play on a good team. Anything I can do to help, that is great.”

The fact is that Spezza’s career earnings in the NHL also are bumping into the $90 million range. Still, given his other charitable work including his organizing efforts to help AHL Marlies’ players who didn’t earn full AHL salaries during the pandemic, I believe him.

Item Two: Dougie Hamilton Rumored to Be Interested in Maple Leafs

Elliotte Friedman was a guest on Sportsnet’s 590 The Fan’s radio “Lead Off” show yesterday and reported that there might be mutual interest in bringing Dougie Hamilton to the Maple Leafs. Certainly, there’s a mood in Toronto to make drastic roster changes and general manager Kyle Dubas is in a tough situation carrying defenseman Morgan Rielly’s expiring contract after the 2021-22 season.

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There’s no doubt that Dubas likes Rielly, as do most Maple Leafs’ fans. However, to be once again caught in the situation of losing “internal rentals” at the end of their contracts costs the team salary-cap space and added players. As I whined few days ago in a post, it doesn’t seem like a good organizational business practice to keep losing assets for no return.

Friedman believes Hamilton would be a stabilizing factor on the team’s defense and reported his sources believed Hamilton was interested in coming Toronto’s way (he’s from the area). Friedman also reported that there’s some concern that Hamilton might not be a good fit with the team because of his personality.

My research about Hamilton suggests that he’s extremely introverted and quiet in the dressing room, which can be taken in different ways by different people – including teammates. He’s more likely to take a solo walk on Toronto’s St George campus’ Philosopher’s Walk and then spend a day at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) other than hang out with the guys. Personally, I get that.

Still, when I look at his career, he’s stayed no longer than three seasons with any team he’s played for – the Boston Bruins, the Calgary Flames, and now the Carolina Hurricanes. All that said, he’s a great offensive defenseman – who’s improving his defensive game. He might be a nice partner with either the defensive-minded T.J. Brodie or Jake Muzzin.

The question remains if he can withstand the heavy scrutiny that always comes with playing in Toronto. Friedman did note that Hamilton has the kind of personality that accepts a challenge and might want to prove people wrong about his abilities to play and survive in the Toronto market.

Toronto Maple Leafs Morgan Rielly
Toronto Maple Leafs Morgan Rielly celebrates with teammates (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Obviously, if Hamilton comes that means Rielly must be traded this offseason. The fly in the ointment is that, as Sportsnet’s Luke Fox wrote, Rielly is “a heart-and-soul component of Toronto’s roster.”

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

For those Maple Leafs’ players and all THW readers who are fathers, I wish you all a Happy Fathers’ Day. I especially want to wish my own son Jim, who writes THW rumors posts a Happy Fathers’ Day. It’s a day that I recall many of our own fun around hockey – collecting hockey cards, going to games in different NHL cities, and these days just talking about players and what they mean to their teams.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Trading Morgan Rielly & Whining About Life

I hope all you dads have a moment to remember similar experiences with your children. You have my best wishes.

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