Although Liles has a contract, he’s playing in this training camp as though he doesn’t.
John-Michael Liles has played in more than 600 NHL games. He has twice scored 14 goals and three years ago finished with 40 assists. As he enters his 10th season in the league, he does so with the comfort of a contract that pays him US$3.875-million annually until 2016.
But on the second day of training camp, the Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman sounded a lot like a player on a professional tryout.
That is the designation under which veteran forward Mason Raymond, who turns 28 next week, is in camp. And while there are differences between the two players — chiefly that Liles has a contract and Raymond does not — there are also similarities between the two proven NHLers. In a season in which the salary cap has gone down and squeezed out the middle class, both have to prove once again that they are worth not only the money but also the ice time.
Anthony Brodeur was at the New Jersey Devils training camp.
Cory Schneider’s trade to the Devils made the biggest waves at the NHL draft in June, but the team’s selection of Anthony Brodeur with the 208th pick also made a splash.
"I know some of the guys, I’ve been in the locker room," Anthony said after practicing Thursday. "Now that they’re shooting on me, they just think it is a little weird."
Anthony has spent the past two seasons at the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minn., and will play for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season.
He acknowledged Thursday that he was in camp to gain experience. He said, "I’m not trying to make a team or anything."
There are a number NHL veterans in tryout mode this year.
Others dealing with the same situation include Brad Boyes with the Florida Panthers, Ryan Whitney with the St. Louis Blues, Chuck Kobasew with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hal Gill with the Philadelphia Flyers, Ian White with the Winnipeg Jets and David Steckel with the Minnesota Wild.
The Nashville Predators used a compliance buyout on Gill, a veteran defenceman who was set to make $2 million. Every team was given two compliance buyouts to use this past summer or next because under the new collective bargaining agreement, the cap went from $70.2 million to $64.3 million.
Each of those players was making at least $1 million last season but couldn’t find teams willing to provide a guaranteed deal for 2013-14.
"The general consensus is, in talking to teams (I heard), ‘You’d help our team, we just don’t have the money,’ " Gill said in a phone interview Friday. "I think it is bad timing. Of course with the buyouts it would’ve been nice to have another year and then go into free agency. But that’s the breaks."