After a year away from the game, Chad LaRose is ready to return.
On Tuesday, LaRose agreed to a contract with Carolina’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte, per the Raleigh News & Observer. The move reunited the 32-year-old with the only NHL organization he’s ever known — LaRose appeared in over 500 games for the ‘Canes from 2005-13 — and began the reconciliation process after a bizarre breakup.
Remember that? Following the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, LaRose went AWOL for a few days and bailed on his end-of-season meeting, virtually disappearing from the scene:
His contract with the Hurricanes expired June 30. He didn’t show up for his end-of-season exit interview, according to Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford. He has not been reachable through multiple phone or text messages this summer.
LaRose joined the Hurricanes as an unknown. He leaves a mystery.
Later, LaRose surfaced to explain why he bailed.
“I needed a cool-off period as opposed to going right in and blowing up,” he explained last August. “Nobody was happy we didn’t make the playoffs again. I took some time, cooled off, and then I went and saw everyone, talked to [general manager Jim Rutherford], paid my respects and thanked them for the opportunity with them.”
The frustration was understandable, because LaRose’s final year in Carolina was pretty ugly. After scoring a career-high 32 points in ’11-12, he registered just four in 35 games on a bad ‘Canes team, posting a minus-8 rating while averaging a mere 12:51 TOI per night. But after this summer’s regime change — Ron Francis took over for Rutherford as GM, and Kirk Muller was replaced behind the bench by Bill Peters — it seemed as though the door was open for a return, most notably when Francis expressed optimism regarding LaRose’s comeback.
Carolina also has some history in the reclamation project department. Last year, the club inked center Manny Malhotra to an AHL deal after he’d been sidelined with a significant eye injury. Malhotra worked his way up to the ‘Canes, signed an NHL deal and scored 13 points in 69 games before becoming a finalist for the Masterton Trophy, which eventually went to Rangers forward Dominic Moore.