Brossard, QUEBEC — The numbers were respectable.
In 66 games split between the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks last season, Tomas Fleischmann had 27 points and a +12 rating.
Contrast his 2014-15 output with that of his 2013-14 season (28 points in 80 games) and you could characterize it as a nice bounce back. But it wasn’t enough of one to secure him a new contract as an unrestricted free agent this past summer.
Instead, Fleischmann finds himself in Montreal on a professional tryout, and he made his first comments on the situation from the Canadiens’ training facility in Brossard Thursday.
“I think every free agent was surprised about what happened this year,” Fleischmann said of the many that were forced into signing PTOs. “It’s a cap issue. I think [teams] just want to wait and see what happens with their younger guys in camp and after that they’re going to decide if they want to sign an older guy.”
But Fleischmann is only 31 years old, and he has no intention of playing anywhere but in the NHL this season. No matter how strong his conviction is in his ability, his decision to sign a PTO was based on his unwillingness to sit at home, and in his own words “wait for something that maybe [wouldn’t] happen.”
Fleischmann had certainly enjoyed more productive seasons than his last two. 61 of his 310 NHL points came in 2011-12 before he managed 35 points in 48 games of the lockout-abridged 2012-13 campaign.
He attributes his recent dip in production to a marginalized role with the Panthers and being traded to a Ducks team that already had most of their forward spots filled.
How does Fleischmann see his future with the Canadiens?
“I see it as a great opportunity on one of the greatest teams,” he said. “My last two years were not perfect; this is my opportunity to rise.”
There’s reason to believe there’s room for a player of Fleischmann’s experience in Montreal, especially on the left-wing where the Canadiens are lacking the depth they have at the other forward positions. And he’s proven to be rather effective from a possession standpoint, which only helps his case on a team that struggled in that department in 2014-15.
But Fleischmann’s not the only player fighting for a job on Montreal’s bottom two lines.
Christian Thomas and Michael Bournival are young players who would be exposed to waivers if the Canadiens sent them to the AHL. The sense is that both will be given the opportunity to stick in Montreal.
Sven Andrighetto, Charles Hudon and Dan Carr can all play the left side, and they each bring a level of offence that could threaten Fleischmann’s bid for a job.
And Jacob De La Rose won favour with his strong defensive play last season, putting him in the running to remain in Montreal.
“My hockey is simple,” said Fleischmann. “It’s skill, or trying to find open guys or score goals.”
There’s no doubt the Canadiens can use more of that, the question is: can Fleischmann provide it on a consistent basis?