Spezza wants to return to Maple Leafs, can become free agent

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Jason Spezza said he has no plans to retire and wants to return to the Toronto Maple Leafs next season.

The forward, who turns 37 on June 13, signed a $ 700,000 one-year contract with his hometown team on July 1, 2019. He can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019-2020 season , which was suspended on March 12 due to concerns about the coronavirus.

“I really feel like I have some game left and there is nowhere I would like to play another year here in Toronto,” said Spezza. “I hope it will work.

“At this point, it is not the goal (because of the pandemic), but I would like to be back. I think we are building things with this club and I want to be part of it. “

Spezza scored 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 58 games this season, recording regular time with Toronto’s second unit in power play, and winning 54.0% of his faceoffs.

These statistics show that Spezza is still effective in certain roles, but he said he was not sure what his roles were at the start of the season.

Under the guidance of coach Mike Babcock, Spezza has been a hit for 10 of Toronto’s first 23 games and admitted he was confused as to how it was – or was not – used.

“It was obviously not the beginning that I envisioned … (but) I didn’t really want to feel sorry for myself,” said Spezza. “I was just trying to stay in the fight and give myself the opportunity to play well when I got in. “

The opportunity came on November 20 when Babcock was fired as the Maple Leafs coach and replaced by Sheldon Keefe.

With Keefe showing renewed self-confidence, Spezza played in all but three of Toronto’s 47 games before the break, and scored six of his seven power play points this season after the change of coach.

“We went through the start of the season when I was in and out of training and I was just trying to settle down to find some (role) with the team,” said Spezza. “I think as the year went on my role became more defined, and then I was able to focus on just playing and being a more positive influence on the games each night, and less on the being in and out of training. I think it helped me to know what my role was and what was expected of me.

“Over the year, I became more and more comfortable with the system. Different nights, I moved in the programming. It was fun and it was a big challenge. “

Video: ANA @ TOR: Spezza pretends then scores the goal

A player who would like the return of Spezza is ahead Zach Hyman, who sits next to him in the locker room of the Maple Leafs and said his influence goes far beyond his NHL career statistics (940 points in 1123 games).

“I picked her brain a bunch,” said Hyman last week. “You can ask him any question about hockey and he will have an answer.

“He has gone through a lot this year and has been calm and steady throughout this race and has been a great presence for our young guys. It would be great to see him again. “

Although Spezza wants to return for another season, he still hopes he can resume this season with Toronto (36-25-9), who is third in the Atlantic Division.

He said he was impressed with the growth in accountability that many young Maple Leafs players have developed in what he described as an irregular season.

“We have a much more mature locker room than at the start of the season,” said Spezza. “There is a lot more property. “

Spezza also mentioned 22-year-old attackers Mitchell marner and Auston Matthews helping to revitalize him at this point in his career.

“With [Marner] it’s the enthusiasm, the excitement, the energy that he brings to everyday life. He has a contagious personality, “said Spezza. The guys love to be with him. Kind of like the Energizer bunny, going around the ice and barking at the guys. … As for [Matthews], I really took it. He likes the game. He works very hard at it. People don’t realize how dedicated he is. … I can identify with him because I was like that when I was young.

“There are no limits to how good you can be with a team when you have high-end guys like that. “



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