OTTAWA - Even by finding another job, Senators centre Jason Spezza is about to take a 100% pay cut.
And on an $8-million salary Capgeek.com says is tied with that of Steven Stamkos, Duncan Keith and Christian Ehrhoff as the 12th highest in the NHL, that’s a big hockey hit.
Asked if times have changed much since Doug Gilmour figures he wound up losing $6,000 in his nine-game stay with the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers during the 1994 lockout, Spezza, who will join the same Swiss ‘A’ League team next week, gave a quick shrug.
Apparently, having to cover himself with a reported $50,000 per month in insurance fees wipes out anything he’ll earn suiting up for the Lakers.
“I’m pretty much going over there for free, just to keep playing,” Spezza said at Bell Sensplex Thursday. “It’s more just about that I hope, when the season gets started, I can kind of hit the ground running and be feeling real good about my game, and then be ready to step in.
“At this point, with exhibition games already cancelled, it’s probably going to be a shortened training camp. If I get a chance to play in some games, hopefully it will be an advantage for me.”
Spezza will leave next Tuesday or Wednesday and should make his Lakers debut either Sept. 28 against ZSC Lions or Sept. 29 versus EHC Biel. He said he was thinking of his wife Jennifer and two young daughters when he chose Switzerland as a place to play during the lockout.
“I’d been talking to a few teams ... I guess the last decision came within a matter of a couple of days,” he said. “I was going to try and wait a little bit longer, but I wanted to make sure my family is in a good spot. Being in Switzerland, the organization seems like they’re going to take real good care of us. I didn’t want to go over without my kids, so it was important to make the decision early, I guess, and get everybody settled in.
“For me, I wanted to make sure I was playing in Switzerland,”
Spezza added later. “It’s a good league, with high quality, good practices and good pace. Also a safe place for my family to be. That was a big reason. We’ve been there before, at the world championships there once, My wife is familiar with it. We’ve been in Zurich a little bit, so a little bit of familiarity helped too.”
During the 2004-05 lockout, the Senators were able to send a then-24 year old Spezza to their American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton. He responded with 32 goals and 85 assists for 117 points in 80 games to win the AHL scoring title and lead the B-Sens to a first-place finish in the East Division.
“Last lockout, I tried to make the most of a bad situation and I’m trying to make the most of a bad situation again now,” said Spezza. “For me, that’s continuing to play.”
No matter how nice it is, Spezza would prefer not to be in Switzerland for long.
“I still hold hope there’s a chance a deal can get done before regular season games get cancelled,” he said. “Best case would be to go over there and get some skates in, and be ready to go when we start here.”
In the meantime, Spezza is preparing to play for a team that has only a handful of overnight road trips.
“Everything (else) is there and back,” said Spezza, who knows only goalie David Aebischer on the Lakers roster. “I get to see my kids a lot. That was important to me. You can go to some leagues where it’s a bigger country, there’s a lot more travel, and we go through enough travelling here ... If I was going to go somewhere, I wanted to be somewhere that I could be around my family a lot.
“I’m wired to get ready for games, and practise every day. I think it will keep me sharper and be ready to go once the season rolls around.
“It will be a different perspective on how the game’s played, on the big ice. I’ve talked to guys who have been over there, it makes you in good shape, to get up and down the big ice. It’s going to be a challenge.”