Leafs sign veteran centre Jason Spezza

TORONTO – Jason Spezza is coming home.

The veteran centre signed a one-year contract worth US$700,000 with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday as NHL free agency opened.

Spezza, 36, has recorded 332 goals and 915 points in 1,065 career regular-season games with the Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars. He’s also added 70 points (25 goals, 45 assists) in 80 playoff games.

A two-time all-star, Spezza registered eight goals and 27 points in 76 games with Dallas in 2018-19. He made $7.5 million each of the last four years with the Stars.

Spezza, who should help replace the veteran leadership of the since-departed Patrick Marleau, led all NHL players who took at least 200 faceoffs with a percentage of 58.2 last season. He added three goals and two assists in 11 playoff games.

The Toronto native was originally drafted second overall by Ottawa in 2001.

Spezza, who’s made nearly $87.5 million in his NHL career, joins a Leafs’ roster that’s already deep down the middle with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Nazem Kadri.

Toronto also swung a trade about three hours before free agency opened at noon Eastern, shipping defenceman Nikita Zaitsev and forward Connor Brown to Ottawa for blue-liner Cody Ceci in a six-player deal that should help the salary cap-squeezed Leafs in their efforts to sign restricted free agent winger Mitch Marner.

Zaitsev was on the books for $4.5 million for the next five years, while Brown is scheduled to make $2.1 million in 2019-20. Ceci, an RFA with arbitration rights, made $4.3 million last season and can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

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