Andreychuk: 'I've not retired'
TAMPA, Fla. -- Dave Andreychuk's playing days are likely over, but he's not ready to walk away from the NHL.
The Tampa Bay Lightning waived the captain of their Stanley Cup championship team this week and assigned him to a minor league affiliate so he can continue drawing his $800,000 salary.
Andreychuk disagreed with management's assessment that he's no longer an effective player in what general manager Jay Feaster describes as the "new NHL," but said Thursday he has no regrets about how the team handled his situation.
"The last few hours have been kind of difficult for my family. But it's something that inevitably was going to happen," Andreychuk said during a news conference held across the street from the St. Pete Times Forum in a restaurant bearing the captain's name.
"I know I've not played the way I can. That's been disheartening to me. But I continued to try. ... I still want to be a player. ... To be told you're not going to play any more, that's hard to swallow."
No player in NHL history played longer (1,597 regular season and 162 playoff games over 22 years) before finally winning a Stanley Cup title. He's second all-time among left wings in goals (640), assists (698) and points (1,338) and scored 20 or more goals 19 times, third most in league history behind Gordie Howe (22) and Ron Francis (20).
But Andreychuk struggled this winter to keep up with the increased speed of the game brought on by rules changes instituted after the NHL lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. His playing time decreased and he had six goals and 12 assists in 42 games before the team pulled the plug on his 23rd season.
Andreychuk said too much was being made about the speed of the game, adding he felt his play had improved over the past month.
"The game's been pretty fast for me for a lot of years," he said, laughing. "I've been able to survive. I don't know if it's any different now."
The Lightning assigned Andreychuk to Springfield of the AHL, but are not requiring him to report.
He avoided using the word "retirement" Thursday, but did say he'd likely meet with team officials at some point to discuss the possibility of remaining with the organization in another capacity.
"I've not retired. ... I'm going to sit at home and contemplate what my next move will be," Andreychuk said, adding that it's difficult to envision a future without some connection to the game.
"All I know is ice hockey. ... It's been my life," he said. "It's going to be hard to walk away and not have anything to do with it."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press