Nikolaj Ehlers (Francois Laplante / FreestylePhoto via Getty Images)
In what has been a cost-conscious off-season, veterans such as Martin Havlat and Tyler Kenndey aren’t sure where their next contract will be coming from, and both may be faced with signing tryout agreements. Meanwhile, Nik Antropov wants back in the NHL but isn’t sure he’ll land a deal, and Winnipeg propsect Nikolaj Ehlers is considering heading overseas should he not make the Jets.
With a tight salary cap and uncertainty about where the upper limit will be heading in the future, this off-season hasn’t been an easy one for veteran free agents.
Top UFAs such as Cody Franson and Christian Ehrhoff remain unsigned, useful veterans such as Marek Zidlicky have yet to land deals and those looking to get their careers back on track, such as Martin Havlat and Tyler Kennedy, aren’t even sure if a deal is coming their way. It’s a tough set of circumstances for both Havlat and Kennedy, as they may not even be looking for solid NHL contracts, but rather the opportunity at a training camp tryout.
Already Sergei Gonchar and (reportedly) Devin Setoguchi are among those who have signed pro tryout agreements, but Havlat’s name might be the next added to that list. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported Wednesday that Havlat’s agent has been contacted about the 34-year-old right winger signing a PTO with the Senators.
Havlat began his career in Ottawa and was a prolific scorer with the Senators, but injuries plagued his career in the early years and it has been six seasons since he has played anything even close to resembling a full campaign. When healthy, Havlat can still be a solid scorer, but he’s coming off of an abysmal year in New Jersey in which he scored five goals and 14 points in 40 games. He was scratched for most of the back half of the season, too.
As for Kennedy, his fate was similar this past season. After several productive seasons in Pittsburgh, Kennedy was dealt to the San Jose Sharks prior to the 2013-14 season and failed to come even close to reproducing his career-high 21-goal, 45-point 2010-11 campaign. After missing more than 30 games this past season due to injury, Kennedy was shipped off to the New York Islanders where he played sparingly. In the post-season, Kennedy only saw action in three outings of the seven-game first-round tilt against the Washington Capitals.
“I tried my best last year,” Kennedy told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jonathan Bombulie. “I did everything I could to have a good year, and things didn't really work out. I hope my agent does a good job. I have a lot of faith in him.”
ANTROPOV TALKING TO NHL CLUBS
Oddly enough, one of the veterans who seems most comfortable with their current situation is Nik Antropov. Though he has spent the past two seasons in the KHL, Antropov has his eye on an NHL return and participated in the BioSteel training camp in Toronto this past week.
“I have a year or two in me for sure,” Antropov told the Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby. “We’re talking to a couple of teams, who I won’t name. My experience is huge. I know the game has gotten a lot faster, which is why I’m at this camp. We’ll see where I end up.
“If anything comes up, I’ll be grateful. If not, I’ll have to think about what’s going on.”
It was previously reported Antropov had a deal on the table from Barys Astana, the KHL club he had played with over the past two seasons, but it seems as though he’d jump at the opportunity to stay in North America for 2015-16.
EHLERS CONSIDERING SWITZERLAND OVER QMJHL
While veterans are looking for contracts in the NHL, one could-be rookie is thinking he might have to take his talent across the pond. Winnipeg prospect Nikolaj Ehlers said he’s considering a stint in Switzerland’s NLA if he doesn’t make the Jets roster out of training camp this season.
"I honestly do not think about this now," the Ehlers told Sportinformation, via swisshockeynews.ch. "But Switzerland is at the top of my list if I'm not going to play in the NHL in the upcoming season.”
Realistically, Ehlers could have made Winnipeg’s roster this past season and was a late cut from the club. After being sent back to Halifax, the 19-year-old proceeded to score nearly two points per game, racking up a remarkable 37 goals and 101 points in 51 games with the Mooseheads. Seeing as Ehlers now has consecutive 100-point seasons in the QMJHL, it might be time for some tougher competition.
As a 19-year-old, however, Ehlers isn’t old enough to compete in the AHL should he not make the Jets. Because he has played two seasons in the CHL, he wouldn’t be AHL eligible until next season when he’s 20, so heading overseas might offer him the best opportunity to grow as a player. That said, this could become a non-issue as the 19-year-old may be ready for NHL action in 2015-16.