It was a devastating end to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ postseason run, losing three straight to be eliminated by the rival Montreal Canadiens. There is a lot of blame to go around for how things collapsed, but one player that is drawing almost universal praise is Jason Spezza. The veteran forward had an incredible season, scoring 30 points in 56 games and contributed another five points in seven playoff games, tying him with Auston Matthews for third on the team. Spezza is a pending unrestricted free agent but told reporters including Kristen Shilton of TSN at his end-of-year availability today that he would like to return:
Yeah, I would. I feel like there’s a lot of unfinished business, I feel very invested in the group here and hopeful that I get another opportunity to do that again next year and push this team over the top.
Even if he takes another league-minimum contract, Spezza will be getting a slight raise over this year’s salary as the number increases from $700K to $750K for the 2021-22 season. The hometown kid will turn 38 in a few days but seemed to have plenty of life in his legs and silk in his hands this season. It seems likely that the Maple Leafs will bring him back, given how tight they will be to the salary cap once again.
Joe Thornton also spoke today but explained to reporters that he has to “be a dad” for a little while before making a decision on his future. Thornton and Spezza aren’t the only unrestricted free agents the Maple Leafs have. Zach Hyman, Riley Nash, Wayne Simmonds, Nick Foligno, Alex Galchenyuk, Zach Bogosian, Ben Hutton, Frederik Andersen and David Rittich are all set to hit the open market later this summer, and there is no way that Toronto will be able to retain them all even if, like Spezza, they wanted to return.