The latest on Jason Spezza, Nail Yakupov, and James Slater, as well as updates on the Canucks and Canadiens.

Spezza returns to Ottawa hoping for end of NHL lockout.

Spezza returns to Ottawa hoping for end of NHL lockout.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators star Jason Spezza is returning to Ottawa having spent most of the lockout playing in Switzerland, as well as helping Canada win the 2012 Spengler Cup. He returned in anticipation of a possible end soon to the NHL lockout. Spezza remains open to returning to Swiss club Rapperswil-Jona Lakers if the NHL cancels the remainder of this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spezza joins several NHLers (including Senators teammates Colin Greening and Zack Smith) who’ve spent the lockout overseas returning to North America in hopes of being ready if the NHL lockout ends in the coming days. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers 2012 first round pick Nail Yakupov is coming under criticism from some in the Edmonton media for refusing to meet with the media yesterday following Russia’s 4-3 OT win over Switzerland.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shouldn’t those pundits wait until Yakupov has a few NHL games under his belt before unsheathing their knives? We don’t know the reasons why Yakupov didn’t meet with the press yesterday, though given the unflattering treatment he’s received in this tournament, I couldn’t blame him for blowing them off. Seems to me the only ones concerned about that is the pundits. 

HOCKEYBUZZ.COM: Eric Engels suggests one way for the Montreal Canadiens to resolve their potential cap problems for next season under a lowered salary cap would be to use the amnesty buyout to rid themselves of Scott Gomez’s contract, then buy out the final season of Tomas Kaberle’s contract. The former wouldn’t count against the Habs cap, while the latter would free up some cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league is also reportedly willing to accept two amnesty buyouts now, meaning the Habs could buy out Gomez and Kaberle without those counting against their cap.

VANCOUVER PROVINCE: A shortened NHL season will still mean a tough travel schedule for the Vancouver Canucks.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets forward Jim Slater is stepping up his workouts in anticipation of an end to the NHL lockout.