WILMINGTON — It was in the final weeks of the regular season that Daniel Paille got an inkling of what might happen. He was pushed into the press box for the last nine games, a far-from-illustrious end to what had been a productive Bruins career.
And that, he thinks, helped lead to what happened this summer: Paille, an unrestricted free agent, remains in limbo on the eve of training camp.
So there he was Friday, still skating at Ristuccia Arena with his former teammates. But while most of the skaters were wearing the spoked-B (or, in the case of Shawn Thornton, a panther), Paille wore an NHL Players Association jersey, as did fellow free agent Lee Stempniak.
“The only thing you can control is your play and, other than that, there’s nothing I could have done,” said Paille of his days as a healthy scratch. “Definitely a big portion of me I think not being signed is not being able to play those last [nine] games.
“I did everything in my power to get back into the lineup regardless of what I did, but I think at the time they made their decision and decided what kind of direction they were going.”
They were going younger, and the 31-year-old Paille did not fit into that. The Bruins determined that they were not going to bring Paille back — along with fellow veteran fourth liner Gregory Campbell — and told him on the team’s breakup day. They didn’t even wait to allow their new general manager to make the decision, instead allowing the soon-to-be-fired Peter Chiarelli give out the news.
Campbell quickly found a job, signing with the Blue Jackets for two years and $3 million. Paille did not.
That has left Paille still hoping, still waiting, still in negotiations with a few teams that would like to bring him in on a professional tryout rather than a contract. Paille, of course, would prefer to get a deal signed before he heads to a camp.
He has not ruled out the option of playing in Europe, though he would clearly rather get an NHL job.
“I knew going into free agency there could be this chance,” said Paille. “Definitely not too keen on being in this position, but there’s a lot of players like myself that have played a long time that had some down years that need to prove themselves again.
“I feel like I’m a different person after going through this summer.”
Paille certainly had a problematic season with the Bruins in 2014-15, his sixth year in Boston. The fourth line, as a whole, never really came together after the loss of Thornton to free agency and with down years from Paille and Campbell.
Paille finished the season with six goals and seven assists, but did not record his second goal of the year until Feb. 24, enduring 36 consecutive games without one.
“Towards the end, obviously, you get frustrated with how things ended, but for me I’m just lucky that my whole experience was great in Boston,” Paille said. “I’m not going to let that last part of my time here affect the wonderful years that I had.”
He’d like to be able to look ahead to what’s next — a new city, a new team, a new opportunity. So far, that hasn’t materialized.
“This next week here should be a huge indicator what the direction’s going to go, but I’m confident I can play in this league next year,” he said. “But I’ve learned that if it doesn’t happen, there are other options.
“I’ve been grateful to play for as long as I have. Like most guys say, I’ve still got a lot in the tank. I feel that I can prove myself once again to be a dynamic player. With the right situation, I think I can do that.”
. . .
David Pastrnak will be among a group of players participating in a World Cup of Hockey media event next week. While the rest of the players are bona fide NHL stars — Zdeno Chara, Sidney Crosby, Henrik Lundqvist, Steven Stamkos — Pastrnak hasn’t reached that level yet. Still, he’s among the three Bruins attending, along with Chara and Tuukka Rask . . . In addition to Paille, Stempniak, and Thornton, Colin Wilson of the Predators also joined in on Friday . . . Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that the Bruins will bring goalie Jonas Gustavsson to camp on a PTO (professional tryout). The Bruins are weak at the backup goaltender spot, at least in terms of experience, with Jeremy Smith, Malcolm Subban, and Zane McIntyre vying to earn the spot behind Rask.