FRISCO, Texas – It wasn’t an easy decision, but Jason Spezza decided to leave the only NHL club he’d ever played for, the Ottawa Senators. And on Tuesday morning, the veteran center was traded to the Dallas Stars, and he couldn’t be happier.
"Yeah, I’m thrilled. I’m very excited. Dallas is a team that from the get go I thought would be a good fit for me," Spezza said during a conference call with media on Tuesday.
Spezza, 31, comes to Dallas after 11 seasons in Ottawa, where he registered 687 points (436 assists) in 686 regular-season games. Young right wing Ludwig Karlsson also goes to the Stars in the deal, which sent right wing Alex Chiasson, who had 35 points (22 assists) for Dallas last season plus left wings Nicholas Paul and Alex Guptill back to the Senators.
He discussed a meeting with Senators general manager Brian Murray after last season, after which he and Murray mutually agreed that him moving to a new team would be the best thing for both parties.
"I think that it was best for me to move on. I think Brian felt it could help the team to have me move on too, so it was tough. It was a tough decision and you know how much I’ve liked being there and playing there, but I felt like go on to the next chapter of my career. I want to try to win a Stanley Cup and I felt like a change of scenery could help me get there," Spezza said.
His new team, the Stars, head into the coming season off their first playoff appearance since 2008, falling to the Anaheim Ducks in six games in their Western Conference First Round series.
But one need Dallas had this offseason was to add a second-line center to help alleviate some of the pressure off their top-line combination of captain Jamie Benn (79 points) and center Tyler Seguin (84 points), the Stars’ top two point producers last season.
And it appears that Spezza fills that need in a big way.
"I just really felt that Dallas was a fit for me and that’s why it was a team that I had targeted to want to go to," Spezza said. "I have a relationship with Lindy (Ruff). He’s coached me at World Championships. I think the young group they have is an envy of a lot of the League, and I think I could fit in with helping out with the depth at center, maybe an area they needed help with."
Besides playing for such a young, talented team that plays an up-tempo brand of hockey that he feels suits him well, he’s also looking forward to playing with the likes of Benn and Seguin.
"Yeah, I think those two guys are phenomenal, phenomenal hockey players and to think about being on a power play with those guys and to play with them, hopefully we can create some depth where it makes it difficult for teams to have waves of guys kind of coming at you," Spezza said. "It’s a great situation for me to be on a team with such talented guys, that’s for sure."
Spezza, who figures to center Dallas’ second line next season, is also looking forward to possibly sharing a line with young Russian-born sensation Valeri Nichushkin, the Stars’ top pick in the 2013 draft.
"Well, anyone that knows me knows that I watch a lot of hockey. He’s obviously one of those exciting, young players coming up in the League," Spezza said of Nichushkin. "To be that big and to skate as well as he does, I remember when we played against the Stars in Dallas there and he blew by a guy. I knew he was an exceptional skater and it barely looked like he was moving. So, it’s definitely someone that if I get a chance to play with, hopefully we can find some chemistry."
Acquiring Spezza, a two-time NHL All-Star with over a decade of experience in the League who is still in his early 30s is not only a solid move for the Stars on the ice, but it will also benefit the club, one with a pretty young roster, in the room.
"I’m excited. I think I could bring a lot to a team. I’ve been around for a long time now, learned a lot and think I could pass that on in a different setting as well," Spezza said.
Spezza has one year remaining on his current contract and could become a free agent after next season, but the veteran center doesn’t want to talk about any potential contract extension with his new club, at least not right now.
"It’s not a priority of mine I think that I want to go there, just establish myself and play and show them how much I can contribute and just help the hockey team win," Spezza said. "The contract stuff always takes care of itself. If it’s a fit for the team and it’s a fit for me, then we move forward with that, but it’s not a focus at all."