Jason Demers could not assist however get a way of déj vu as he traveled from his workplace dwelling in Paradise Valley, Ariz., to Edmonton on Saturday.
“I used to be on the airplane, and I used to be like, ‘Oh, this sounds acquainted,'” Demers mentioned with amusing. “I am hoping to final this time.”
After all, as a result of he’ll start Oilers coaching camp on Wednesday on knowledgeable tryout supply, present circumstances are usually not the identical as final time.
It was a bit over six years in the past that Demers was a high-profile free agent who visited Edmonton through the courting window previous to the official launch of free company. He was one of many first to stroll into the Oilers’ model new territory with one other unrestricted goal, Milan Lucic.
Demars took off from Montreal along with his father, Darrell, and was blown away by the journey. He mentioned he was beginning to see himself carrying blue and orange for years to return.
Then, as everybody is aware of, issues took a drastic flip.
Administration, then led by GM Peter Chiarelli, traded star left winger Taylor Corridor for Blueliner Adam Larsen – a fellow righthander with an analogous ability set as Demers. As an alternative, Lusik grew to become a mega-price free-agent addition, forcing the Demers to signal a five-year cope with the Panthers.
“I assumed I used to be going to be right here once I visited,” he mentioned. “Then there was the letdown.
“I do not often look again a lot. However in that second I used to be very excited. I actually thought this was a superb likelihood at or near being a deal. ,
Though Demars is getting one other likelihood to turn into Oiler, he is not going to have a long-term contract within the subsequent few weeks. Now 34, he goals to renew his NHL profession after one season out of the league.
His earlier contract did not finish as deliberate. He was traded from Florida to Arizona through the deal, and he mentioned the ultimate two seasons have been significantly tough.
Demers had 4 assists in 41 video games with the middling Coyotes within the COVID-19-trimmed 2021 season, and his underlying numbers have been respectable – when paired with Niklas Hjelmarsson. However he did not at all times get face-to-face with the teaching workers, he mentioned, and performed by a again damage that hampered him.
Along with his contract, Demers was trying ahead to a contemporary begin. He mentioned he hoped the Oilers could be occupied with him. Days became weeks and there was little communication league-wide. He modified brokers a month earlier than the season began. Nothing thus far.
“This league humbles you,” he mentioned. “I am stunned to say I did not get the decision, in fact – by the only side of the variety of years I’ve performed.”
DeMars took the primary two months of the season to get well from again surgical procedure and to mentally reset.
“There are loads of issues that occur inside (dressing rooms) that keep there which are worn on me,” Demers mentioned. “It was a wierd transition level.
“Cleansing my (again) gave me a minute to take a step again from the sport and see if it was one thing I needed.”
He resumed coaching in hopes of garnering curiosity from a serious league crew after which obtained phrase from Hockey Canada that he was on the listing of candidates for the boys’s Olympic roster if the NHLers weren’t going to the Video games. That grew to become his aim.
Naturally, that street didn’t go easily attributable to one other COVID-19-affected season.
Demars performed for Canada on the Channel One Cup in Moscow, serving to his nation to a bronze medal. The event ended on 19 December. At 2 p.m., Demers and roommate Eric Fehr woke as much as a thud on the door.
“You’ll be able to think about we have been a bit scared,” Demers mentioned.
They quickly realized it was two Staff Canada officers who advised them their subsequent event – the Spengler Cup – had been canceled attributable to COVID-19.
Not solely did he have to depart the nation as quickly as attainable, however he additionally needed to resolve on the very best place to go for his profession within the brief time period. He and Fehr needed to make a fast choice considering that in the event that they returned to Canada or the USA, they could have bother touring again to Europe to arrange for the Olympics.
He determined to fly to Zurich, Switzerland. After discovering ice to make use of, he traveled southwest to Bern by practice, hockey gear in tow. There he waited two weeks for a piece visa.
Demers signed on to play for the Kazan A-Bars within the KHL, however performed simply 5 video games earlier than the league suspended its season in mid-January attributable to COVID-19 considerations. Again in Switzerland, he went to Canada to attend for the pre-Olympic camp.
Demers was injured whereas taking part in for Canada on the Olympics in Beijing. The Canadian crew misplaced to Sweden within the quarter-finals. He went again to the AK-Bars for the playoffs. They misplaced their first-round sequence to Omsk Avangard in six video games, with Demers showing in 4.
To say that final season went in line with plan could not be farther from the reality.
“It was wild. It was loopy,” he mentioned. “Topsy-turvy might be the appropriate approach to put it, however I do not remorse doing it.”
Not a lot occurred the way in which he needed, however Demers is grateful for his experiences. He felt he wanted a psychological and bodily break from the NHL, and felt refreshed after taking part in simply 14 video games between the KHL common season and the playoffs and the Olympics.
Demers mentioned that her physique is feeling nice and she or he is having a rookie’s giddiness once more. Time away from the NHL made him hungry.
“I take it as a constructive yr for myself, and it is one thing that is a bit completely different,” Demers mentioned. “It renewed my ardour to get again within the league. I devoted myself this whole summer time to getting one final run in it once I got here again in April, simply to prepare and practice and be as wholesome as attainable.
“I feel I’ve one thing to show. That was one thing I in all probability had lower than my previous few years. I wish to are available and be an ideal teammate and assist younger individuals, or I wish to assist the place I can, and be an asset.
It seems that Demers may have problem securing contracts from the Oilers.
A crew supply mentioned the veteran Blueliner is being introduced into the camp for causes deeper than the rest. The Oilers are set on the appropriate facet of the protection with Cody Ceci, Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barry. Even when Barry will get settled, Philip Broberg is a robust candidate to maneuver on.
Nevertheless, groups do not simply supply PTO for charity. The Oilers have turn into accustomed to signing gamers on the PTO lately as nicely. Alex Chiasson and Jason Garrison signed after an invite to camp in 2018. Colton Sevior did the identical final season.
Demers haven’t any nice illusions about what their effort with oilers can carry.
He known as it a “no-laws scenario” for all events concerned. The Oilers may signal him in what could be a league-minimum deal. In the meantime, he’s exhibiting his expertise to the remainder of the groups within the league.
He is able to make his presence felt and be an NHLer once more – ideally in Edmonton.
“I am right here to crew up,” Demers mentioned. “I really feel like I can provide this crew lots. If they do not see it, it is a enterprise. I perceive that. I am simply going to attempt to put the very best tape for them after which allow them to Will give a tricky choice as a result of I am positive that is what they need as an alternative of a straightforward choice.
“It is no secret — when you’re in your early-to-late 30s, you are within the ninth place of your profession. It is my push to indicate that I nonetheless have lots left.” And I can nonetheless assist the crew the place I play on the roster.
Demers mentioned he had a number of chats this summer time with bench boss Jay Woodcroft — one among his assistant coaches throughout his finest NHL years in San Jose. It was Woodcroft who really helpful giving him a shot with the Oilers.
Maybe appropriately, Woodcroft was an assistant coach with the Oilers when the Demers have been being gained and dined by the group six years in the past.
We’ll discover out quickly whether or not Demers can earn a contract that will enable for a reunion in Edmonton.
“It is prefer it’s come full circle,” Demers mentioned. “It is thrilling.
“I used to be one of many first to see Rogers Place being constructed, so it’s enjoyable. It will be good to be again at it, utterly completed – whether or not it’s for 10 days or eight months.”
(Prime picture of Jason Demers with coyotes in 2021: Stan Zato / USA In the present day)