For 13 seasons, checking forward Jay Pandolfo was a member of the New Jersey Devils organization. He played 819 regular season games, 131 postseason contests and won two Stanley Cups as a defensive-minded winger for the franchise. Pandolfo hasn’t played a regular season game in the NHL in any other uniform, despite the fact that his last game was on April 11, 2010.
If Pandolfo ever wants to register another NHL game, he’ll have to do it in another jersey. He’s hoping to earn a roster spot with the Devils’ regional rivals the New York Islanders, which means that he’ll need to impress during his preseason tryout.
A big part of that effort could come tonight, as Pandolfo will suit up with the Islanders against his long-time allies. (The game should be in progress by the time you’re reading this.)
There are certain mitigating factors that might cut down on the awkwardness a bit. For one thing, it’s a preseason game; even if it’s a big deal for Pandolfo, it won’t be for many of his former teammates. Speaking of former teammates, the number of familiar faces should be lower since it’s been a full season since he interacted with them.
That being said, Pandolfo admitted that it will still be a little weird when discussing the subject with Tom Gulitti.
“I think so,” Pandolfo said of tonight’s game being strange. “It probably would have been a lot weirder last year, but it’s been a year in between. It won’t be as weird. It seems like there’s not as many guys there either that I know. It’s different. But it will definitely be strange. I’ve only played for one team my whole career, so it will be different.”
Pandolfo was teammates at one time with only eight of the 20 players the Devils will dress tonight.
He knows that if he doesn’t win a job with the Islanders his playing career is probably over.
“Most likely,” he said. “I don’t know about definitely, but just getting a chance to be in training camp the same time as everyone else is playing that benefits me rather than just waiting again. I’m going to wait and see what happens with this. I’m in shape and playing at the same time everyone else is, so obviously I want it to work out here, but if it doesn’t then we’ll go from there.”
Pandolfo spent a chunk of last season with the Springfield Falcons (the Columbus Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate), but decided to end his tryout with that team after his surgically repaired shoulder proved to be a continued problem. Pandolfo said that he had some discussions with the Boston Bruins regarding a tryout last summer, but that didn’t pan out. He also spoke “a bunch” with Devils GM Lou Lamoriello about his future, which presumably indicates that he might join their front office once his career is over.
Before he decides to put on a suit as a hockey executive, he’ll get a chance to stay in an NHL sweater for at least one more night. How well he plays against his former team might just determine if he can wear one for a bit longer.