Cap crunch has NHL vets trying out for their old teams


Dan Cleary has been with the Detroit Red Wings since 2005. During that time he’s scored 119 goals, made over $15 million and won a Stanley Cup.

Yet today, Cleary — an unrestricted free agent — turned down the opportunity to try out for the Red Wings during next week’s training camp.

An abundance of forwards and lack of cap space led to Cleary, who wants to stay in Detroit, expressing disappointment over the situation at hand.

“I’ve just tried to wait as long as I could for Detroit to make the right moves, I guess,” the 34-year-old explained on Friday. “That’s all I can say right now.”

Cleary’s situation is hardly unique. Thanks to the salary cap ceiling dropping to $64.3 million this season, a number of veteran NHLers are accepting that professional try outs — PTOs for short — might be their best shot at employment.

In Los Angeles, netminder Mathieu Garon is trying out with the same team he used to start for.

Garon enjoyed his finest pro season with the Kings — a 31-win effort in 2005-06 — but now the veteran of over 300 NHL games is looking for work behind Jonathan Quick and Ben Scrivens.

(Garon’s PTO was classified as a “depth move” by the L.A. Times, as 23-year-old ‘tender Martin Jones is holding out.)

In Philadelphia, reports suggest longtime Flyer Simone Gagne might head to camp on a PTO.

The 33-year-old rejoined the club midway through last season and put up a decent effort, scoring 5G-6A-11PTS in 27 games played while averaging over 14 minutes a night.

The issue here, it seems, is opportunity. Philly already has 13 forwards under contract and limited cap space, so it might be more advantageous for Gagne to try out for a club with more spots and money at its disposal.

Phoenix is another club reaching into its past, offering Gilbert Brule a camp invite.

Brule, 26, played 33 regular-season games for the ‘Yotes in 2011-12, scoring five goals with nine assists; however, Phoenix did not tender him a qualifying offer after the season, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Brule then signed with Zurich last summer, but was released after just 14 games with the Swiss club.

It’s likely other veterans will soon follow suit and take the “familiar tryout route”. Journeyman Jeff Halpern, who has played for six different organizations, recently told the Washington Post “I know I can still play the game,” but remains without a contract.

Halpern’s not alone. Consider what longtime NHL defenseman Hal Gill, a veteran of five clubs, recently tweeted:

“Summers over, school is on, air is cool, leaves are changing and hockey is about to…. ah, I need a team.”

Blues put Berglund on LTIR, use savings to sign Gomez

Scotte Gomez
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As was the case last season, Scott Gomez accepted a professional tryout offer because he went unsigned over the summer and once again he has used that opportunity to extend his career.

The St. Louis Blues announced that they have signed Gomez to a one-year contract. They didn’t disclose the financial terms, but it’s a two-way deal that comes with a base salary of $575K at the NHL level, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford.

In order to free up the space necessary to sign him, St. Louis moved Patrik Berglund to the long-term injured reserve list. Berglund had shoulder surgery in August and isn’t expected to be available until January.

Gomez, 35, is coming off of a resurgence campaign where he recorded 34 points in 58 games on a Devils’ team that finished near the bottom of the pack offensively. The two-time Stanley Cup champion will be bringing more than a 1,000 games worth of NHL experience to St. Louis.

He’s not the only veteran forward to make the team off of a PTO as the Blues signed Scottie Upshall on Monday.

NHL key dates for the 2015-16 season

Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares
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Nov. 10 —  NHL General Managers Meeting (Toronto)

At last year’s November meetings, the GMs decided to kill the dry scrape. But these meetings usually serve as a table-setter for the rest of the season. It’s the more in-depth meetings in March where the majority of things get decided.

Nov. 27 — NHL Thanksgiving Showdown: Rangers at Bruins

The first of 12 “NHL on NBC” games in 2015-16. Click here for the full list, including the games on NBCSN.

Dec. 7-8 — NHL Board of Governors Meeting (Pebble Beach)

This is where we could find out about expansion. Will both Las Vegas and Quebec City get the nod? Only one of them? Neither of them?

Jan. 1 — Winter Classic: Canadiens at Bruins

From Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Please don’t make any “deflated pucks” jokes. You’re better than that.

Jan. 28-Feb. 1 — All-Star Break

This year’s festivities are being held in Nashville, which is a pretty fun town we hear. Skills competition on Saturday the 30th, game on Sunday the 31st. Over/under has been set at 25 goals and 60 percent effort.

Feb. 29 — NHL trade deadline

Leap day! Click here for a list of pending unrestricted free agents, a.k.a. potential rentals.

Mar. 14-16 — NHL General Managers Meeting (Boca Raton)

As mentioned, these are the more in-depth meetings where any recommendations are typically made. Last season, the GMs recommended 3-on-3 overtime and a coach’s challenge.

Apr. 9 — Last day of the regular season

All 30 teams in action on this Saturday. Playoffs begin four days later on Wednesday. Also, the draft lottery’s date is still to be determined, but should be held sometime around here.

June 18 — Last possible day for the Stanley Cup Final

Click here for PHT’s Cup picks.

June 24-25 — NHL draft

In Buffalo this year. Click here for Central Scouting’s “players to watch” list, led by Auston Matthews.

July 1 — Free agency begins

And then it’s summer.