Rounding out this week’s edition of Islanders that never were is Jason Spezza, who the Islanders essentially gave away to the Ottawa Senators.
It’s no secret, the New York Islanders were a dumpster fire in the late 90s and early 2000s mostly thank to Mike Milbury. Arguably Mike Milbury’s worst decision was the Alexei Yashin trade which we are going to talk about today.
Earlier this week, we talked about Zdeno Chara and he too was a part of this infamous trade. In this Yashin deal, the Islanders sent over Chara, Bill Muckalt and a 2001 first-round pick. That first-round pick turned into Jason Spezza.
Spezza was taken second overall by Ottawa, after a 106 point season in the OHL. Spezza would play one more year in the OHL putting up 63 points in 53 games before making his way over to the AHL the following year.
With 54 points (22 goals, 32 assists) Spezza quickly outgrew the AHL in just 43 games. He finished the remainder of the season with Ottawa with 21 points (7 goals, 14 assists) in 33 games making it pretty evident that this kid could play.
At age 20, his first full year in the league, he grew into a pretty solid 55 point player. 2004-2005 was the lockout year, but when the NHL returned in 2005-2006, Spezza was a superstar. He eclipsed 90 points that year and then would put up three 30 goal seasons in a row with Ottawa.
His last year with Ottawa was 2013-2014 where he put up 66 points in 75 games rounding out with 687 points in 686 games. Over 11 years with the franchise, Spezza was a point per game player.
By this point, Alexi Yashin was an afterthought. Yashin’s final game came in 2007 at age 33, by the time Yashin was done, Spezza was a budding superstar in the league, leading his team to a Stanley Cup Final performance.
Spezza was traded to Dallas where he was pretty solid for them for a few years as well. In his first three years, he had 62, 63 and 50 points before dropping to 26 in 2017-2018. He’d play one more year in Dallas with 29 points before signing with Toronto this past offseason.
He signed a one-year $700,000 deal and has been fairly productive for Toronto. As a fourth-line center he has 25 points (9 goals, 16 assists) in 58 games. For what he’s getting paid to do that’s a great return.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Spezza had 14 years of .54 points per game over the course of his career with eclipsing a point per game in four years during his tenure with Ottawa.
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Could you imagine if the Islanders didn’t trade Chara and instead drafted Spezza? My, how things could’ve been different. Once again, we can thank old pal, Mike Milbury for that one.