If you’ve ever wondered how life for a professional athlete can be difficult, looking at the story of defenseman Andreas Lilja might make for a good place to start. During the off-season Lilja held out hope that he’d get a better offer from his, now former team, the Detroit Red Wings. The one-year, $1 million offer he did get from Detroit, he and his agent Todd Diamond rejected it figuring they could get something better. Misreading the market never looked so bad before and Lilja admitted as much.
Instead, Lilja accepted a professional tryout offer from the San Jose Sharks, a team that desperately needs defensive depth help. The Sharks tried him out all camp long and even took Lilja with them to Europe, making things all the more awkward when the team announced this morning that they were releasing Lilja from his tryout and not offering him a contract.
Making this situation all the more awkward is that Lilja has until October 10th to find another job in the NHL (or AHL for that matter) before his visa expires and he has to leave the country. For a guy with a family and with kids enrolled in school, the reality of the situation hits home pretty hard.
According to NHL.com’s Dave Lozo, the Sharks liked what they saw from Lilja, just not enough to take him over a player they’ve developed on their own.
“Andreas had a very competitive camp and played well for us but we also have several young defenseman who played well,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “They have put in their time in the organization and we feel that they have earned and deserve an opportunity to compete for a spot on this team.”
Once again, a team opts to go with home-grown youth over veteran experience. That’s a hiring pattern that has shown through in a big way this year. The question is: Will it work out for those teams that go that way? We shall see, but in Lilja’s case, losing out on a job is made even harder by the legal and family life ramifications he has to possibly deal with next.