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Is the Maple Leafs’ Jason Spezza the NHL’s Biggest Bargain?

Jason Spezza, after a long and successful NHL career, signed with the Maple Leafs at a bargain contract. Is he the best bargain in the NHL?

The 37-year-old Jason Spezza is far from the player he was when he was drafted by the Ottawa Senators as the second draft pick during the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Regardless, Spezza can still put the puck in the net as he showed on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ third goal of Saturday’s game to help beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 and end the Oilers’ five-game winning streak.

Related: Andersen May Have Already “Earned” an Extension With Maple Leafs

Now a “vintage” fourth-line winger on the North Division’s leading Maple Leafs team, Spezza has signed on for the second season in a row at the bargain-basement price of the NHL’s league-minimum salary of $700,000 as he seeks the one NHL prize he doesn’t have – his name etched on the Stanley Cup. 

Jason Spezza Maple Leafs
Jason Spezza, Maple Leafs

On the season, Spezza’s played 21 games and has scored five goals and seven assists for 12 points – all averaging less than 10:18 minutes each game – although recently Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has upped his time to about 12 minutes. 

What Do the Maple Leafs Get for Spezza’s Salary?

Other than the scoring that I noted just above, the Maple Leafs get good value for Spezza. He can still play, but he’s also a leader who sets a positive example of how hockey players should work hard at their games. He’s also an example of a teammate who’ll do what it takes to make his team better.

Earlier in the season, Spezza scored a rare hat trick. His young teammate and emerging star Auston Matthews noted that Spezza has become a bit of a mentor to younger Maple Leafs’ players. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs

After Spezza’s hat-trick game, Matthews shared that, ”He (Spezza) means a lot to this team, I think more than anybody knows. That was fun to watch. That was vintage Jason Spezza. He put on a show. He deserves it. He works so hard.”

Matthews added that, ”At this stage in his career, the dedication that he pours into his own game, into the team … to see a guy like him get rewarded and put on a show like he did, that was pretty incredible.”

Spezza Scores His Team’s Third Goal in a “Vintage Move”

To his teammates, Spezza has the nickname “vintage.” And his move on goalie Mike Smith to score the team’s third goal was “vintage” Spezza. He faked a shot that froze Smith onto his knees and then went around him to the right and put one top shelf. 

That beautiful goal, as you can see on the video, was certainly vintage Spezza.

Spezza Appreciates His Teammates as Much as They Appreciate Him

Earlier during the season Spezza noted that, ”The game’s been good to me. I’m still chasing the Cup. That’s what keeps me driving.” [As an aside, if you haven’t watched the lead video about Spezza, it’s worth a look. It’s well done an shows his work ethic and the admiration of his teammates.]

Jason Spezza Hat Trick Maple Leafs Canucks
Jason Spezza Hat Trick Maple Leafs Canucks

As far as secondary benefits, Spezza added: “Just coming to the rink and being part of a team, I don’t think you ever replicate the bond you have with teammates. There’s ups and downs and trials and tribulations, but you always have each other’s back.”

Spezza finally noted: ”That’s pretty special stuff. You don’t get that unless you’re playing.”

Related: Auston Matthews Vs. Connor McDavid: Who’s Having the Best Season?

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