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SPEZZA INTENDS TO RETURN TO TORONTO NEXT SEASON, SHOULD MANAGEMENT WISH TO OBLIGE HIM

The Maple Leafs, still ripe with the sting of losing their qualifying round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets have made no excuses for their lack of execution during locker clean-out day on Wednesday. For some, this is just a bump in the road. For others, this is the end of it.

Among the players that the Leafs are expected to move on from are Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie. Players who the Leafs are still up in the air on are Kyle Clifford, Denis Malgin and Frederik Gauthier. But the real wild card this offseason is Jason Spezza.

When the Leafs had originally brought in Jason Spezza during the last offseason, it was unclear what type of role that the now 37-year-old would play in Toronto. The hometown veteran did not see much ice under former bench boss Mike Babcock, but was revered in the dressing room, looked up to heavily by the large contingent of young players who wanted to pick the former superstar's brain for tips that they could use to find their own success.

In the wake of Sheldon Keefe's arrival, Spezza was given new life and a second chance with the team, which led to the veteran forward recording 25 points in 58 games in what was primarily a 4th line role with a hodge podge of rotating depth linemates. But more importantly than that, he became a stabilizing presence for the youth of the Leafs' lineup.

In my own opinion, and those of many others, there is a very strong chance that the Leafs offer Spezza a contract to remain with the club through next season, simply due to what he means to the guys in the locker room. That opinion is amplified by the fact that Spezza himself wishes to return for another crack with the boys in blue and white.

"It's special to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. As a Toronto boy, it's something I dreamed of. You want to be a part of something special. I didn't take for granted any day with a jersey on and it's really disappointing to be done this early," said Spezza.

"I know that I'm not the player I once was, but I do feel like I can help quite a bit, and the fire still burns and I really hope to be back here next year."



The one bit of criticism that Spezza had for this team was very fair and isn't something that the young Leafs don't already know. There is work that needs to be done, but everyone seems to be holding themselves and the guys next to them accountable.

"I've played on high-end offensive teams and the ones that had long playoff runs could lock it down when you had a lead. So that's something that this group will have to get comfortable with moving forward."

Spezza is of course referring to the game 3 collapse against the Jackets - a game that had the Leafs up by a score of 3-0, before the win slipped away a goal at a time with the Leafs conceding 4 to Columbus and 3 to Pierre-Luc Dubois, who played a terrific game for the opposition. Spezza hopes to be a player that can help this group in that area next season.

Though nothing is for certain, the Jason Spezza experiment in Toronto, by all accounts, was a resounding success and my guess is that the likelihood of Spezza being awarded a contract to stick with his hometown team outweighs the likelihood of him playing elsewhere next season.
MIKE ARMENTI
AUGUST 12, 2020  (14H18)
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