Sens sign Spezza to $9M deal

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

All Jason Spezza has to worry about this summer is getting healthy.

The Senators centre, who had back surgery in May, signed a two-year, $9-million deal (all figures US) with the club yesterday.

Spezza, a restricted free agent who had a career-best 90 points (19 goals) last season, could have filed for arbitration at Thursday's deadline, but opted against it. Instead, the 23-year-old agreed on a deal that will earn him $4.5 million a season -- a hefty raise from the $1.1 million he made last year.

"It was good for me to get it done," said Spezza in a conference call last night. "It gives me an idea where I stand with the club and they have an idea what they can do this summer.

"I wanted to get something done because I want them to be able to go out and get some others and be able to improve the team. I'm happy I'm going to be able to just focus on getting ready for the season."

GM John Muckler said he called Spezza's agent, Rick Curran, on Sunday and they agreed to talk yesterday afternoon.

Spezza felt he deserved something similar to the deal recently signed by Hurricanes forward Eric Staal -- a three-year contract worth $13.5 million.

"We've always had easy contract negotiations with Jason Spezza. We've been fortunate in that regard," said Muckler.

"They wanted to get something done and we felt good about it.

"We expect Jason to play a big role on our hockey club. We believe he is going to improve from last year and that's important."

Spezza, who had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, said he is still two weeks away from getting a clean bill of health. "I am on schedule and everything is going as planned," he said.

Now that Spezza's under contract, Muckler will focus on negotiations with wingers Peter Schaefer and Martin Havlat, defenceman Christoph Schubert, goalie Ray Emery and centre Antoine Vermette.

In Havlat's case, if a contract isn't agreed upon by Thursday, he'll file for arbitration.

The Senators, who have committed more than $34 million in salary with up to eight more players to sign, are talking with several teams about moving Havlat, who will be looking to make Spezza-type money.

Muckler also said the club is still sifting through the free-agent market for a fourth-line centre and a defenceman.

"What we're looking at right now is the Tier II group of free agents and there's some good players in there who we feel can help us," said Muckler.


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