Sens life suits Spezza

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Back in Jason Spezza's old 'hood in Mississauga, a gaggle of his blue-and-white-loving buddies already had their famous friend's future pencilled out.

According to their Spezza Plan, Jason would play out his deal with the Ottawa Senators for the remainder of the 2007-08 season; sign an offer sheet over the summer with the hometown Maple Leafs; and become the natural candidate to take over as the franchise player from Mats Sundin whenever the Toronto captain retired.

Nice idea, boys.

Too bad it was scuttled when Spezza inked a seven-year, $49-million US pact with the Sens last week, a shrewd move by Ottawa management, which now has Spezza and Dany Heatley, two of the game's best young players, locked up long term.

"Yeah, I had friends back home who thought it was a sure bet I'd be in Toronto after my contract was done," Spezza said with a chuckle yesterday.

"Man, I couldn't even imagine how many tickets I would need for all the home games in Toronto had that happened.

"I'm very happy here. Besides, if they want to come see me play, it's not that far. It's only a four-hour drive."

Because of a nagging groin injury, Spezza will not be in the lineup tonight when his Sens play host to the Leafs at Scotiabank Place. It will be the third meeting of the season between the provincial rivals, with Ottawa coming out ahead in the first two.

With Spezza and Heatley on board for a while, the biggest question in the nation's capital is: Can the Sens afford to re-sign defenceman Wade Redden, who is making $6.5 million in this, the final year of his deal?

"It is a situation," Redden said. "Obviously, I want to stay here and be around with them, but we have to wait and see.

"I mean, I'm not saying I think less of myself, but it's easy to understand why they would want Heater, Spezza and (Daniel Alfredsson) around."

As for Sundin, he can expect a healthy dose of Ottawa's top defensive blueline tandem of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov this evening.

"It seems the three best players in the league right now are Swedes -- (Henrik) Zetterberg, Sundin and Alfie," Sens coach John Paddock said.

Alfredsson is not surprised at the success his fellow 2006 Olympic gold medallist has enjoyed this season.

"I don't think Mats is just satisfied with the Olympic medal we won,'' Alfredsson said.

"He wants to win a Cup and he wants to win it in Toronto."


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