Erie Otters winger Anthony Luciani and defenseman David Shields declined contract offers from NHL clubs this summer.
The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks offered Luciani, a 20-year-old overager, an AHL/ECHL deal after he attended the club’s rookie development camp in July.
But his agent, Neil Sheehy, of Boston and Minneapolis-based Sheehy Hockey, LLC advised him not to accept it, Luciani said. Until he declined the offer, Luciani planned to represent the Blackhawks in the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ rookie tournament, set for Sept. 11-14 at John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario.
“My agent knows what’s best, so I went with him,” Luciani, who received interest from the Blackhawks after producing 38 goals and 68 points last season, said before the Champions for Education Golf Tournament at Lake Shore Country Club on Monday – the unofficial start to Otters’ training camp.
“You can always do better (with a contract offer),” Luciani said. “I’m just going to play (my final junior season) and see how it goes.”
Shields, 19, the St. Louis Blues‘ sixth-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, chose not to accept the club’s qualifying offer in June, which Shields described as a three-year deal at the league’s minimum rookie salary and with no signing bonus.
“It’s just basically to be with them for another three years,” said Shields, who has until June 1, 2011 – the NHL’s signing deadline for 2009 draft picks – to avoid becoming a free agent.
“It’s definitely a risk,” Shields said. “But in the long run, I think it’s a good (decision). I think I can really show that I want it and get more of an offer for me. I know it’s a really big year.”
Shields will play for the Blues in the NHL Prospects Tournament, set for Sept. 11-15 in Traverse City, Mich. A strong performance could lead to an invitation to main camp later in the month.
* Speaking of better offers: Forward Shawn Szydlowski, 20, an overager, originally planned to join Luciani at the Blackhawks’ rookie development camp. But while Chicago’s interest began to grow cold, Szydlowski received an invitation to the Ottawa Senators‘ development camp in July.
“Everything went well there,” Szydlowski said. So he will play for the Senators in the Maple Leafs’ rookie tournament against, among other prospects, Otters teammate Greg McKegg, Toronto’s third-round pick in the 2010 NHL draft.
Senators officials “told me they would give me an honest shot” to earn a spot at main camp and, ultimately, a contract, Szydlowski said. “Now that I’ve got an opportunity to do this, (I’ll) hopefully prove something to them and then have another year in Erie, if I come back.”
* Belief system: Coach Robbie Ftorek believes more players believe in the team’s ability to surpass its achievements of the past two seasons, which included 67 wins and two first-round defeats in the OHL playoffs. But his work isn’t complete.
“Shame on me because I believe in what we can do,” Ftorek said. “But I haven’t convinced (all of) the players yet to believe. It takes them to believe and to trust and rely upon one another and care about one another. If they do that, then we’ll be successful. We’re working at it.”
* Speaking of Ftorek: He remains intent on focusing on nothing beyond the current day. Before the golf tournament on Monday, he was asked about his expectations for the 2010-11 season.
“I want to get through my first shot off the tee box,” he said. “Then we’ll worry about the other stuff. We’re going to take it again one game at a time and let the other things take care of themselves.”
* News and notes: The Erie Otters Fan Club will hold its next meeting on Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 707 Sassafras Street. … Former Otters defenseman Chris Campoli (2000-04) played in the golf outing, but wasn’t expected to skate with the team in camp. He signed a one-year contract with Ottawa, worth a reported $1.4 million, in July.
- Victor Fernandes