Maple Leafs Sign Spezza

The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced that they’ve signed veteran centre Jason Spezza to a one-year, $700,000 deal.

Born in Toronto, the former Dallas Star will get to lace up his skates in his home town as a member of the Maple Leafs. In what could very well be Spezza’s last season in the NHL, this may be his last chance to win the Stanley Cup.

The 16-year NHL centreman has collected 332 goals and 915 points in 1,065 games, adding 25 goals and 70 points in 80 playoff games. While his production has dipped over the past two seasons, dropping from 50 points to 26 and 27, Spezza is still a valuable commodity. In 2018-19, he was 58.2 percent on the faceoff.

Related: Senators and Leafs Swap Ceci, Zaitsev

Spezza is a two-time all-star and former captain of the Ottawa Senators. In 2006-07, he helped lead the team to the Stanley Cup Final, the only one in the franchise’s young history.

He’s seen success internationally as well, winning a World Championship gold medal in 2015 and silver medals in 2008 and 2009. In 2015, he had the most points (14), was honoured as the best forward and named to the all-star team. He knows what it takes to win.

Spezza Brings Experience and Leadership to Maple Leafs

With veterans Ron Hainsey and Tyler Ennis signing with the Senators, and Patrick Marleau recently being sent to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Maple Leafs were in need of a new veteran presence. While star John Tavares brings that, Spezza can help share the load.

Jason Spezza
Jason Spezza has signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Spezza will likely find a place on the third or fourth line, behind Tavares and Auston Matthews. With rumours that the team is trying to move Nazem Kadri, Spezza could slide into that third-line spot with Fredrik Gauthier holding down the fourth-line role.

Spezza could also see time on the Maple Leafs’ power play. As THW’s Chris Faria wrote in early June, the centreman has seen success with the Star’s unit and that could benefit Toronto.

“Of his 27 points (in 2018-19), 12 were scored on the power play, placing him third on the team in power play production. Spezza’s 4.3 points-per-hour on the power play ranked third on the Stars (minimum 20 minutes played), and that mark was better than all but three Maple Leafs. Perhaps most impressive was his playmaking ability: Spezza produced 2.87 primary assists-per-hour, topping Mitch Marner’s mark of 2.83.”

Spezza Helps Maple Leafs’ Salary Cap Issues

With Spezza coming in at the league minimum, the Maple Leafs have saved a great deal of salary cap for a veteran presence. Even just swapping out Marleau for Spezza, the team saves just over $5.5 million. With restricted free agent (RFA) Mitch Marner still unsigned, the Maple Leafs need all the relief they can get.

Newly acquired Cody Ceci is also an RFA and it’s reported that he’s verbally agreed to a one year, $4.5 million deal. The Maple Leafs will need to make some more salary cap-clearing moves if they want to keep Marner. General manager Kyle Dubas is far from done finalizing this Maple Leafs’ roster, but the Spezza signing is a good start.