When Dave Hodge of TSN tweeted just less than a week ago that members of Jason Spezza's family believe he will be a Leaf, it once again started the rumor mill that Spezza has gone through for years. Well, it had to happen sooner or later, so let's look at the possibility of him coming to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
First of all, do the Leafs even need Jason Spezza? Even though he would undoubtedly be the No. 1 center if he were acquired, the Leafs would have a glutton of centermen that would border on absurdity. The Leafs have Tim Connolly, Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Bozak, Matthew Lombardi, Darryl Boyce, Philippe Dupuis and Nazem Kadri.
Either Boyce or Dupuis will be sent to the minors with the other taking the fourth line spot. Nazem Kadri has been moved to the wing but still could end up being sent down to the Marlies. Lombardi can also play the wing. That leaves three players for three spots, and they are all locked in their positions. Therefore, if Spezza were to be acquired, one of them would have to be in the package that is sent to Ottawa.
With Tim Connolly slotted as Phil Kessel's centerman, as of now, Jason Spezza would push him down to the second or third line, where he could possibly be better suited and not be in a high profile spot. That, and I think we can all agree that Spezza would be a better player to play with Kessel than Connolly would be.
The next issue is the salary cap hit. Spezza has a cap hit of $7 million for the next four seasons. The Leafs have $2,185,000 in cap space going into this season. That means, enough salary would have to be sent the other way to make sure the Leafs stay under the cap.
So, who would be sent to Ottawa that would both give them enough back to give up their star player and also keep the Leafs from going over the cap?
As I already pointed out, one of Connolly, Grabovski or Bozak would have to be sent Ottawa's way. Grabovski would be the best offensive option for Ottawa to take, and his contract expires at the end of the season, so Bozak would most likely be the best option.
With the glutton of defensemen the Leafs have, we would also be able to send them at least one. Although, Carl Gunnarsson has had a good training camp, the play of Jake Gardiner has made him expendable.
Bozak and Gunnarsson will more than likely not be enough to get Spezza, and they only take just under $3 million off the cap. That's why including Nazem Kadri fits into the deal both ways. Carrying a $1.7 million cap hit, he brings the money heading to Ottawa to just over $4.5 million. With that deal, the Leafs would only be $270,000 over the cap with the acquisition of Spezza. That's not too much to deal with.
That being said, is it worth Bozak, Gunnarsson and Kadri to acquire Spezza? The Leafs are finally back on the road to contention and are the Leafs willing to gamble that Jason Spezza is the right fit in Toronto?