After nearly a week of free agency there are still many guys out there waiting for the golden phone to ring. Usually the big names come off the board in the first few days. Then teams start looking to plug the holes their organization had last year, or that were created after their own unrestricted free agents left.
The remaining UFA’s usually begin to sweat at this point. Their agents may have told them that the process would take time but in the back of your mind they all are hoping to wrap it up quickly. They know that UFA’s are signed all the way to camp but you don’t want to be without a chair when the music stops.
There were a couple of times when I didn’t sign until the second or third week of July. I was pretty sure I would be fine but no matter where you go friends are asking you. It gets a little old deflecting or lying about what is going on. They all mean well but the process takes time – which is hard to understand sometimes both for the player and friends.
The first year I signed with the Oilers was one of those years. I signed later and although once we started talking it came together quickly I didn’t tell many people outside my family it was a possibility. I wanted to keep a lid on it and not only keep others from getting super excited but myself as well!
Your phone will ring boys, it isn’t broken. Keep preparing for next season, don’t get distracted.
I get a lot of questions about my two and a half seasons I spent playing in Europe. I played in Hungary during the lockout and then a full season in both Switzerland and Sweden. I loved every minute of it all!
Playing on the big ice during the lockout helped get my confidence back. It had been beaten up somewhat from my last year in Chicago. Although the Hungarian league would be below the AHL in quality it didn’t matter. I was played as many minutes as I could take and it rekindled a fire in me to play the game for fun and take chances. I will always be thankful to my team and team mates in Budapest for that.
Two years later I was back in Europe. I wanted to get back to the NHL, though, so I still had an eye towards that. I ended up signing in Lugano, Switzerland. What a beautiful place, though. Wow! I had no idea what to expect when I got there and I was blown away. Imagine putting Kelowna in the middle of beautiful mountain ranges. Incredible!
This team focused a lot of skill development. Since turning pro I hadn’t spent much time in season on that. It gave me a chance to work on my game. The timing was perfect. I know it helped me return to the NHL at the end of the Swiss league season and play another four full seasons.
Last year I was in Sweden. I knew I would never be coming back to the NHL. I went over in November with my very young family and we had an incredible experience. The hockey was a lot of fun to play. At times I felt like a coach which I really enjoyed. Sweden is filled with great people and everyone we met really made us feel welcome.
If any of the players still unsigned are thinking about going to Europe to play, I say go for it! It is a great experience both on and off the ice!!!
Previously by Jason Strudwick
- Free agency again?
- Draft day memories…
- When will the Oilers become Kings?
- It’s time to raise the age of draft eligible players
- Loose lips sink ships
- Is Ralph Krueger the right choice for the Oilers?
- 1994 Memorial Cup
- Thinking bigger
- It’s good to be the WHL King!
- Here and there
- A real eye opener