Michal Handzus is sure of one thing: He wants to play in the NHL next season.
What he isn’t sure of is which team — if any — will take a chance on a 37-year-old center coming off a disappointing season, and it apparently won’t be the Blackhawks. TSN reported Monday that the Hawks have informed Handzus they will not re-sign the unrestricted free agent after he spent parts of two seasons with them.
Though the validity of the report is not in question — shortly after the Hawks were eliminated from the postseason, Handzus discussed the likelihood of not returning — it was news to Handzus as of Monday evening.
“If true, I’m not that surprised — a little sad, but not surprised,” said Handzus, who said he had not spoken to his agent, Matt Keator, or Hawks general manager Stan Bowman about his situation. “I didn’t play well enough this year to earn a spot next year — that’s the bottom line.
“They have a young guy coming in with Teuvo (Teravainen), and obviously they’re going to give him a chance. They have a lot of great players who can play center. There’s a lot of flexibility.”
The Hawks declined to comment on the report, and efforts to reach Keator were unsuccessful.
After helping the Hawks capture the Stanley Cup in 2013, Handzus finished this past season with four goals and 12 assists in 59 games. Coach Joel Quenneville continued to try to recapture the magic of Handzus as his second-line center, but the veteran lost his spot to Andrew Shaw during the playoffs and the Hawks lost to the Kings in the Western Conference finals.
Handzus partially attributed his difficult season to not having time to train the previous summer after undergoing surgeries on his wrist and knee following the Stanley Cup run. Now with an opportunity to train during a full offseason, he said he does not want to retire.
“I want to play,” Handzus said. “I still have fun. It left a bad taste the way we lost in the playoffs and I didn’t play well. I still feel that I’m a better player than I showed.
“Now I’m healthy for the offseason and I can work and get into shape and do what I need to do. I feel I can still help a team. We’ll see if the teams think that too. I know I’m an older guy and I don’t know what’s out there, but we’ll see.”
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