New Jersey digs deep, offer tryouts to former star Petr Sykora and others

Training camp opens up at the end of the week and the New Jersey Devils are offering up tryouts to a few NHL veterans and youngsters including one who made a name for himself in New Jersey in the 90s. The Devils are offering tryouts to five players and the lead name there is Petr Sykora.

Sykora spent last season playing for HC Plzen in the Czech league as well as Dynamo Minsk in the KHL but got his start in the NHL back in 1995 with the Devils. Sykora spent seven seasons in New Jersey and helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup in 2000 playing on the same line with Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias. Sykora has played 14 seasons in all in the NHL and won a second Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009.

Through his career, Sykora has been a consistent 20-25 goal scorer but his final season in Minnesota saw him struggle to get ice time when he could play and was knocked out for most of the 2009-2010 season with a concussion. In Europe last season, Sykora scored 13 points in 13 games with HC Plzen and had 16 points in 28 games with Minsk. What he could contribute at the NHL level remains to be seen in Devils camp.

The Devils also offered tryouts to former Blue Jackets defenseman Anton Stralman, former Panthers and Canucks forward Steve Bernier, and to minor leaguers Thomas Nesbitt and Justin Barnett. Stralman is more of an offensive defenseman and isn’t exactly a physical force on the ice while Bernier is more of a defensive forward than a scorer these days. Bernier could fit in to the Devils system while it would be stunning to see Stralman able to land a job in New Jersey.

Another blast from the past: David Aebischer receives training camp tryout with Winnipeg


There are several former NHL goalies who would provide fodder for a few “where are they now?” features. While I assume he retired by default/because of injuries, I’ll always wonder what happened to Manny Fernandez; he wasn’t a star caliber goalie, but Fernandez was above average as a backup in his final season with the Boston Bruins (16-8-3 with a .910 save percentage and 2.59 GAA behind Tim Thomas during his first Vezina Trophy winning campaign). Fernandez, John Grahame and Cristobal Huet are just a few examples of once-prominent goalies who have fallen off the map once they left the NHL.

One name many of us haven’t discussed in ages is former Colorado Avalanche goalie David Aebischer. The Swiss-born goalie faced the difficult task of inheriting the No. 1 job in Colorado during the 2003-04 season after Patrick Roy retired. Aebischer actually ran with that job for one season, earning 32 wins with a sparkling .924 save percentage and 2.09 GAA in 62 games played. Whether you can blame the lockout or just call him a one-hit wonder, Aebischer’s NHL career quickly plummeted after that season, leading him to take his game to Switzerland.

He’s been there for four years, but the Winnipeg Jets handed him a training camp tryout, much like the Chicago Blackhawks did with Ray Emery. Unfortunately for Aebischer, he doesn’t have Emery’s reasonable chance to earn a job at the NHL level; the Jets are likely set in net with Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason (at least for this season). Then again, that goalie duo represents leftovers from the Atlanta Thrashers regime, so you never know how new GM Kevin Cheveldayoff actually feels about Pavelec or Mason.

Ed Tait discusses the long odds that Aebischer faces.

Technically, it’s true – the Jets confirm Aebischer will be in their training camp on a ‘try-out’ contract. Essentially, he is on loan from his club team in the Swiss league, Lugano, but is a real long-shot to unseat either Ondrej Pavelec or Chris Mason or even to be considered for a spot with the St. John’s IceCaps.

The 33-year-old product of Fribourg, Switzerland was drafted by the Avs in 1997 and played for the Swiss at the 1998 World Junior championships when they shocked the international hockey world by grabbing the bronze (the year Canada completely collapsed and finished eighth). Aebischer was named the all-star goaltender in that tournament; Canada had Roberto Luongo and Mathieu Garon between the pipes, just FYI.

In all likelihood Aebischer will be headed back to Lugano. If he was to stick, the Jets would have to come to a financial agreement with the Swiss club to get him signed to an NHL deal.

If nothing else, it will make the Jets’ training camp a bit more interesting to follow.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)