As he seeks his 16th season of professional hockey, Scott Gomez’s journey has come full circle.
The Anchorage native started with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, moved on to the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers, and now will attempt to hook up with the Devils again.
Gomez, 34, a two-time Stanley Cup-winning center with New Jersey and the most prolific, best-compensated player in Alaska history, said Wednesday he will go to the Devils’ training camp next month on a tryout basis.
He’s one of many Alaska-connected players on the move.
The Alaska Aces — Gomez twice played for them during NHL lockouts — on Wednesday shipped the rights to winger Brett Findlay, who in June helped them to the third Kelly Cup in franchise history, to Orlando for future considerations.
Also Wednesday, three-year Aces winger Jordan Kremyr signed with the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors and former UAA winger Jordan Kwas signed his first pro contract, joining the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles.
But, as is usually the case with Gomez, who has played nearly 1,000 regular-season NHL games and, according to capgeek.com, racked up $62.8 million in career earnings, his news trumped all the minor-league moves.
Gomez said by cellphone Wednesday from New Jersey that he went to dinner that evening with Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens. Steven is the Devils assistant coach who was the team’s captain when Gomez made his NHL debut at 19 and went on to win the Calder Trophy as the circuit’s Rookie of the Year for the 1999-2000 season.
Gomez is working out with the guidance of Vladimir Bure, the father of Hall of Fame winger Pavel Bure and the man who trained Gomez as a young pro. And he reached his tryout agreement with Lou Lamoriello, the Devils president and general manager who drafted him and signed him to his first pro contract.
“Talk about deja vu,’’ Gomez said. “It’s crazy. It’s almost spooky.’’
Gomez said he briefly considered retirement in the offseason after he played 46 games for Florida last season, when he was limited to two goals and 10 assists. But he said increased ice time in his last handful of games convinced him he can still play in the world’s best league.
He also said retired former teammates encouraged him to keep playing.
“Literally, every guy I talked to said, ‘No, get (retirement) out of your head, you can still play,’ ’’ Gomez said. “I know I can still play and I can still help this team. You bet I can play.’’
Gomez played his first seven NHL seasons for New Jersey before signing a seven-year, $51.5-million free-agent contract with the Rangers.
“People think we left on bad terms,’’ Gomez said. “That’s not the case. I was a free agent and that was the market, and that’s what I got. Lou knows that. He’s a guy I’ve always respected.
“There’s nothing petty or sentimental with him. It’s, ‘Hey, can you help out the team?’ ’’
Gomez said he will attend training camp with the same approach he used in 1999, when his preseason play convinced the Devils to keep him instead of sending him back to major-junior hockey for more development.
Said Gomez: “I go back to what my old man (Carlos) said when I was a rookie: ‘Make ’em keep you.’ ’’