With most NHL training camps getting underway today and tomorrow, veteran skaters that failed to land contracts or PTOs have decided to look overseas.
Like Martin Erat, for example.
Erat, who spent last year in Arizona, has signed on with KHL club Avangard Omsk, per the league website. The decision to head to Russia comes after the 34-year-old scored just nine goals in 79 games for the Coyotes last season, numbers that reflected Erat’s decline over the last few years.
A former mainstay in Nashville — he appeared in over 700 games for the Preds during an 11-year stint — Erat never seemed to find his comfort zone after leaving the Music City. The Czech winger was a three-time 20-goal scorer in Nashville but, after getting traded to Washington at the ’13 deadline, had real issues finding the back of the net.
All told, Erat scored just twice as a Capital, and finished with only 13 goals in 158 games following his trade from the Preds.
Related: Dany Heatley signs in German League
Looks like Dany Heatley is finally out of NHL chances.
Heatley, a two-time former 50-goal scorer, has signed with the Nurnberg Ice Tigers of Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the club announced on Thursday.
Heatley, 34, spent most of last year in Anaheim but only appeared in six games for the Ducks before getting shipped to Florida, where he finished out the year with the Panthers’ AHL affiliate.
A three-time All-Star and former Calder winner as rookie of the year, Heatley has been on a steady decline for a while now. Injuries and a decrease in skating ability have kept him from being a regular contributor; while he still had a pretty good shot and release (he scored 24 goals for Minnesota in ’11-12), Heatley found it increasingly difficult not just getting it off, but finding the space for quality scoring opportunities.
With Nurnberg, Heatley will join a team featuring a number of ex-NHLers, including David Steckel, Kurtis Foster, Steven Reinprecht, Brandon Segal and Colin Fraser.
Give the Toronto Maple Leafs credit — they’re all in on the professional tryouts.
Having already extended PTOs to forwards Curtis Glencross, Brad Boyes and Devin Setoguchi, the Leafs have now inked a defenseman — former Toronto blueliner Mark Fraser.
Fraser, 28, appeared in 64 games for Toronto from 2013-14, and four playoff contests. The majority of his NHL career has been spent in New Jersey (over 130 games in five years, split into two stints), with a brief spell in Edmonton.
Last year, in his second go-round with the Devils, Fraser played in 35 games, fighting five times while racking up 55 PIM.
At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Fraser has the size and tenacity to be a physical presence on the back end, but his skating ability and lack of offensive ability have kept him from being a regular contributor at the NHL level.
It’s safe to assume that, if he does catch on with the Toronto organization, it’ll be probably be with the AHL Marlies.
Interesting tidbit here from CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty:
Perhaps a PTO with the Bruins is still in the cards after Stempniak spent so much time skating with the B’s players over the last few weeks. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a respected, steady pro that proved last season he’s still capable of potting 15 goals, or that he was summer workout partners at Boyle’s Gym with Bruins Director of Player Development Jay Pandolfo while both were still NHL players.
Another positive sign: Stempniak’s Rangers hockey bag was tossed in the back of the Bruins equipment van with other Bruins players destined for the start of training camp at TD Garden after captain’s practice on Tuesday.
These aren’t Stempniak’s lone ties to Boston. John Ferguson, the Bruins’ director of player personnel, was the assistant GM in St. Louis when the Blues took Stempniak at the 2003 draft.
“I think it would be a good fit. It’s a great organization,” Stempniak said earlier this week, per WEEI. “I’ve heard great things. I’ve gotten to know some of the guys. I like them and have a lot of respect for some of their players, just the way they train, the way they play and as people. It’s definitely appealing,
It would make sense for Boston to kick the tires on the 32-year-old. The team could use some offensive punch after finishing 22nd in the NHL in goals per game last year, and Stempniak could possibly be had on the cheap, coming off a one-year, $900,000 deal.
There will be a third NHL veteran looking to score a contract in St. Louis this preseason — defenseman Stu Bickel, who on Wednesday signed a professional tryout with the Blues.
Bickel, 28, is a veteran of 76 regular season and 18 playoff games, most coming with the Rangers. He did appear in nine contests for Minnesota last season, but spent most of the campaign with the club’s AHL affiliate in Iowa.
As mentioned above, Bickel isn’t the only PTO at St. Louis camp. Former Devils center Scott Gomez will also be looking to secure a new deal, as will ex-Panthers winger Scottie Upshall.
As for Bickel’s chances of making the team… well, they seem slim. The Blues have a ton of talent on defense, and already made a couple of veteran UFA depth pickups earlier this summer in Andre Benoit and Peter Harrold.