The retirement of Jason Spezza was a huge blow to the Maple Leafs at the end of last season. The 38 year old will move his talents from the ice to the front office, where he will serve as a special assistant to general manager Kyle Dubas. The announcement of Spezza’s retirement came after 19 seasons in the NHL, 11 seasons with the Senators then joining the Dallas Stars in 2014 and Toronto in 2019. Spezza is a key part of the team’s offense and is known for his leadership skills on and off the ice.
With such a massive hole to fill in the team, which players could be available this offseason for the Leafs to pick up to mend the gap? Let’s take a look at a few of the best candidates.
To fill Spezza’s role for the Leafs, our candidate must provide experience, leadership and offensive prowess. The player will also need to be relatively cheap, considering the team is already quite close to their salary cap.
One of the best candidates for the job is Andrew Cogliano. Much like Spezza he is still a Toronto boy who could want to play out his last days of his NHL career with his hometown team. Cogliano will likely provide some experience, energy and physicality for the fourth line in Toronto with over 1100 regular-season games, plus another 100-plus in the playoffs. The only real downside is that he won’t bring much in the form of offence. He only had 16 points during the regular season, which won’t match the output of Spezza.
Another potential candidate is Darren Helm from the Colorado Avalanche. Helm is primarily used by the Avalanche as an engine for the fourth line, a role that could be replicated in Toronto. Unlike most of the veterans who will be available this offseason for the Leafs, Helm still has a lot of speed and energy left in him. He could fit right in on the Leafs frenetic penalty kill but is unlikely to bring much offence. If the Leafs elect to go for toughness, speed and overall grit, it’s likely Helm will be your guy.
Our final applicant for Spezza’s position is Trevor Lewis. Known for being large and physical, he’s one of those guys who really becomes valuable come the playoffs. Lewis has become such a favourite of Darryl Sutter, his coach for many years with the LA Kings and now, again, with the Calgary Flames. He would bring a different dimension to the Leafs’ fourth line, helping greatly with the penalty killing while also providing a bit of timely offence when required. Lewis also got two Stanley Cups under his belt, experience which could be very useful if the Leafs can make a deep run.