By: Adam Gretz
The New Jersey Devils announced on Monday that they will be bringing in three free agents on tryout contracts for training camp, including an old friend that was a part of their top line during their Stanley Cup winning season back in 2000.
Petr Sykora, Steve Bernier and Anton Stralman are the players that will be getting a look with the Devils, with Sykora's name being the one that will stand out given his history with the club. Not only was he the Devils' first-round draft pick in 1995, he ended up scoring 145 of his 302 career goals as a member of the Devils over parts of seven seasons, and also helped to form their top-scoring line, along with Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias, during their Stanley Cup victory over the Dallas Stars at the start of the decade.
The 35-year-old Sykora did not play in the NHL last season, having spent the year in Russia playing for Dynamo Minsk of the KHL, scoring eight goals in 28 games. He also spent some time playing in the Czech Republic. His last NHL appearance was with the Minnesota Wild during the 2009-10 campaign where he scored two goals in 14 games before being sidelined with a concussion. He was eventually released.
Bernier, a former first-round pick of the San Jose Sharks, has been a member of four different teams (San Jose, Buffalo, Vancouver and Florida) since entering the NHL during the 2005-06 season, and has scored 76 goals in 385 games. He was traded to Florida from Vancouver prior to last season, along with Michael Grabner and a first-round pick, in exchange for defenseman Keith Ballard.
In what has turned out to be a rather dubious decision in hindsight, the Panthers kept Bernier and ended up placing Grabner on waivers before the start of the regular season in an effort to demote him to the minor leagues. The result: Bernier scored five goals for Florida in 68 games while Grabner went on to blossom after being claimed by the New York Islanders, scoring 34 goals in what proved to be a breakout season for the speedy forward.
Stralman, a defenseman with a bit of an offensive game, spent the past two years with the Columbus Blue Jackets and managed to produce some respectable offensive numbers from the blue line, scoring seven goals to go with 45 assists in 124 games. The Devils are definitely in need of some offensive punch from their defense. During the 2010-11 season, for example, Andy Greene led all of their rearguards in scoring with just 23 points, while no other defenseman on the roster managed to tally more than the 18 points Stralman put up with the Blue Jackets.
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