Now he is at camp with the Colorado Avalanche on a professional tryout contract, looking to turn his career around.
“I wish teams would have more of an interest in taking better care of their players instead of whatever their goal or mindset was there,” Cowen said in an interview with Adrian Dater of BSN Denver.com. “Basically, they got me, figured out that I was hurt, they didn’t want to deal with it and they got rid of me.”
Cowen never actually played a game for the Maple Leafs, who acquired him from the Ottawa Senators as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade. At the time of the trade, in February 2016, Cowen was sidelined with a hip injury.
Because of a quirk in his contract, the Maple Leafs kept Cowen off the ice for the remainder of the 2015-16 season with the intention to buy him out and claim some extra cap space.
But when the time came to buy him out, Cowen challenged the move on the grounds that players with injuries can’t have their contracts bought out. In December, the arbitrator ruled in favour of the Maple Leafs and Cowen became a free agent.
“It was a joke of a process,” Cowen said. “But, it’s in the past. It was a stressful time in my life, in terms of getting traded, getting bought out, getting waived, finding out I needed surgeries.”
Friday’s skate at Avalanche training camp marked Cowen’s first skate with an NHL team since early 2016 when he was still with the Senators. The 26-year-old has a long way to go before securing a roster spot with the Avalanche but he says he was happy to get the first skate out of the way.
“It was fine, but I was just a little bit behind in terms of conditioning because I ran out of time to get as good as I wanted to be for camp, because I’ve been rehabbing the whole way here,” Cowen said. “There were times I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep going with my (hockey) career or not, but I had just enough time to make it and hopefully I keep progressing instead of regressing.
“But so far, it’s not so bad.”