Dainius Zubrus wants back in the NHL — after a failed tryout with the St. Louis Blues, he is giving it another shot with the San Jose Sharks. He’ll be joining the team, currently on a road trip, for its stop in Boston.
At age 37, his best years are likely behind him. Regardless, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer might feel Zubrus has something to offer — he was a member of the DeBoer-coached New Jersey Devils for four seasons. The 18-year NHL veteran became an unrestricted free agent after the Devils bought out the final year of his contract.
“I have a bigger body that can get in on the forecheck, and I feel like my legs can get me there,” Zubrus told the San Jose Mercury News. “I don’t feel slower. I feel I can create some turnovers, protect pucks and battle along the boards.”
Last season, the 6-foot-4, 225 pound Lithuanian-born Zubrus recorded four goals and six assists. He received a call from his old head coach, inquiring if the fire to play in the NHL was still burning, according to Curtis Pashelka’s report. Before making a decision, Zubrus had to speak with his family first, most specifically his school-age daughter, the report said.
“At first she was all pumped up about me coming home and being with her for her birthday, and then I tell her the news and she got a little upset with me,” Zubrus said to Pashelka. “I never played out West, was never separated from my family like that, being in a different town. So I had to sit down and we kind of had to look at the schedule and see if we could make things work before I finally said yes, I think it would work for me.
“Then I called Doug (Wilson) back and said if you give me the opportunity, I would love to join and see how it goes.”
Zubrus doesn’t think his age matters, even though the NHL is widely considered to be a young man’s game now.
“Let’s be real. I’m 37 years old,” Zubrus said to Pashelka. “I don’t feel like I am 37. I understand that teams and the game are getting younger a little bit, there’s young players coming in and teams like to give an opportunity to young players. I completely understand those things, but I felt I could still play in this league. So I was kind of hoping for something to happen for me.”
He doesn’t think adapting on the ice with San Jose will be either, saying that the Sharks are using much of the same scheme’s that DeBoer used while coaching in New Jersey, according to Pashelka’s report. There are currently only 21 players on San Jose’s roster, so making room — at least temporarily — will not be an issue. Alternate captain Logan Couture remains out nursing his leg after surgery, and the Sharks have been recalling and returning players on an almost daily basis from the Barracuda in an attempt to solve problems with the bottom-six pairings.
If Zubrus can skate in the Pacific Division, and bring the grit of the Eastern Conference, it’s worth signing another veteran to mentor San Jose’s youngsters.