According to Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, it’s Tomas Holmstrom’s call on whether he’ll return for his 16th NHL campaign.
“I haven’t talked to Tomas much,” Holland told MLive.com. “We had talked about him taking all of June and July to see what he wants to do. I talked to him briefly in July. He’s going to take the summer, obviously.
“It takes a lot of determination for him to play. Homer is taking all the time.”
Speaking of determination, Holland seems determined not to rush the process and is allowing the 39-year-old to contemplate for however long he needs.
That’s probably because there’s much to contemplate. Detroit added three forwards to the mix this offseason — Jordin Tootoo, Mikael Samuelsson, Damien Brunner — and figures to have former University of Maine standout Gustav Nyquist in a full-time capacity next season.
“If he decides to play,” Holland explained, “we have to have a discussion between Homer and I and probably Mike Babcock to see where he fits in.”
While the influx of new players and the retirement of friend and fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom might push Holmstrom to walk away, there’s some thought he’d like to go out in a better fashion than last season. Holmstrom posted his lowest point total since 1997-98 and went 28 straight games without scoring a goal.
Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.
Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.
The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.
“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.
The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.
Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.