Cap crunch has NHL vets trying out for their old teams

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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.”