As NHL lockout persists, Commodore heads to minors

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 05, 2012
(Eds: With AP Photos.) With the NHL lockout showing few signs of being resolved, Mike Commodore decided he had to take action. And his decision to sign a 25-game professional tryout offer with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs wasn't just an effort to salvage a season. ''I need to be playing, in my opinion, if I want to have a good chance of continuing my career,'' Commodore said while the Bulldogs visited the Abbotsford Heat for a pair of games last weekend. ''So here I am.'' The 33-year-old player from Sherwood Park, Alberta, was among a long list of unrestricted NHL free agents who were left in limbo when the NHL collective bargaining agreement expired Sept. 15. Teams raced to sign younger, core assets before the old CBA expired, but took a pass on older unrestricted free agents until new financial parameters, notably the salary cap maximum and contracting rules, were established. ''Obviously, they were looking to lock up guys long-term with the expiry coming up,'' he said. ''But for guys like me, there wasn't a real rush, and then the lockout started.'' Commodore split last season with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now in his 13th pro season, he has played for almost as many teams in that span. Since being drafted by New Jersey in the second round (42nd overall) in 1992, he has logged 484 career NHL regular-season games with the Devils, Calgary, Carolina, Ottawa, Columbus, Detroit and Tampa. He also has suited up in 53 playoff games. He won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06, played for the Calgary Flames squad that fell in seven games in the 2003-04 Stanley Cup finals to Tampa Bay, and was a member of Canada's world championship-winning squad in 2007. He has 23 NHL career regular-season goals and 83 assists along with eight postseason points. ''The last two years for me, without getting too deep into it, haven't really gone in my favor,'' said Commodore, who is slated to receive a pro-rated salary of $105,000 after earning $1 million last season. ''I haven't played nearly as much as I would have liked, and it all happened very quick.'' Commodore, who is sought for his physical play and has racked up 683 career penalty minutes in the NHL, fell out of favor in Columbus after Scott Arniel took over as coach from Claude Noel in 2010-11. Shortly after getting rare time on the power play, the rearguard was dispatched to Springfield of the AHL for the rest of the season. His career took a turn for the better the following summer as Columbus bought out the remainder of his five-year $18.75-million contract and he signed as a free agent with Detroit. But he struggled to get into the Red Wings lineup and was sent to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline. ''I loved Columbus. ... I worked my (butt) off there, and how it ended, I don't think was right at all,'' he said. ''But that's how it works sometimes. In Detroit, I had a great time. Great guys. Really good organization, obviously. There just wasn't an opportunity there for me. ''I signed there on July 1, an hour into free agency, on a time limit, and I was supposed to get an opportunity to play, and that didn't happen. I was scratched till Christmas. I'm not sitting and complaining. It happens every year to somebody else.'' Now, he finds himself back in the league where he spent the last lockout, in 2004-05 with Calgary's former farm club, the Lowell Loch Monsters Massachusetts. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound blue-liner considered playing in Europe this season, but opted for a loop that he knew. ''I'm playing in front of people that I would like to see me play - NHL scouts, GMs and stuff like that,'' he said. ''I'm just trying to put myself in the best situation.'' Commodore finished even in the plus-minus department as Hamilton split a pair of games with the Heat. Playing his first game since last spring, he went minus-1 in a 5-1 loss, while racking up eight penalty minutes, all on minors. In the second game, he was on the ice as rookie Brendan Gallagher scored the only goal the Bulldogs needed in a 3-0 upset of the league-leading hosts. In the process of trying to earn another NHL job, Commodore is showing Montreal Canadiens prospects like Gallagher and Jared Tinordi, both 20-year-old rookies, what it takes to have a long pro career. ''It's different,'' Commodore said. ''It's fun. I was 20 once, too, playing in the American Hockey League (with the Albany River Rats) my first year, and I remember older guys that were on my team and how they treated me. By no means do I think I'm old. But for hockey, I've been around for a little while. ''It's just funny to listen to the guys talk. It's nice to be around some young blood and some fresh players. I'm enjoying it so far.'' Abbotsford coach Sylvain Lefebvre said Commodore and former Edmonton Oiler Zack Stortini, who has been with the Bulldogs all season, serve as role models for younger players inside and outside the boards. ''They have NHL experience,'' Lefebvre said. ''They've gone through the rigors of schedules and travelling and all that. On the ice, not only do they bring their experience, but also they have poise. They don't panic, and that's important when you have a young team.'' How long Commodore's minor league stint will last remains to be seen. There is no guarantee he will stay beyond his 25-game trial period, and the Bulldogs could release him in the meantime. But, based on what happened after the 2004-05 NHL season was scrapped, he expects the current lockout to create opportunities - and hopes to get one. ''I don't know where I'm going to end up,'' he said. ''I have absolutely no idea. Right now, all I'm worried about is putting it together down here.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Lionel Messi accused of $4.5 million fraud scheme

Iguodala on Durant: ‘It must be fun playing with a guy like that’

Clayton Kershaw to Jake Arrieta: Choose happiness over money

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock announces retirement tour

Las Vegas mayor all-in on Raiders relocation

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Darrelle Revis reportedly once ripped Geno Smith: 'I own him'

Report: Walter Thurmond retiring from NFL at age of 28

Report: Fitzpatrick could sign for less elsewhere out of spite

Report: David Blatt to return to Europe, coach team in Turkey

Steve Kerr on Steph Curry: 'He looks like he’s 12'

Report: Ken Hitchcock to return as head coach of the Blues

English Football Association commits to funding brain trauma research

Joel Embiid declares himself to be healthy in Instagram post

Klay Thompson’s dad too nervous to watch Game 7 so he watched Monday Night Raw

Justin Timberlake gives Gronk a shoutout for his dancing

What the USA Copa America 2016 warm-up games taught us

WWE's new era: fact or fiction?

Report: Pro Bowl moving from Honolulu to Orlando in 2017

2016 NBA Playoffs illustrate the value of a short memory

Khloe Kardashian dating Odell Beckham Jr?

Five MLB trades that make too much sense

Johnny Manziel is ‘hashing it out’ with rental car owner

2016's MLB All-Surprise Team after two months

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Defense could play a huge role in who wins the Stanley Cup

Speedy pace of the Penguins-Sharks Stanley Cup Final

How expanded instant replay has hurt the NBA

Best regular-season NBA teams not to win a championship

Every time an NBA team came back from a 3-1 deficit (and what it means for the Warriors)

How disallowed goals can change the course of NHL games

The five most disappointing MLB teams this season

QUIZ: Identify these NHL Hall of Famers by their nicknames

QUIZ: Name every winner of the Belmont Stakes since 1867

Sniping quotes highlight NHL conference finals animosity

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker