SUN Hockey Pool

Wanting to Gel with new team

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

Martin Gelinas doesn't harbour any illusions about being the missing piece that will transform an also-ran into an instant Stanley Cup contender.

"I know I'm not Forsberg, I'm not Sundin," he said.

Like the shifty Swedes, though, Gelinas is still swimming in the free-agent pool. For the first time in a career that has spanned 19 seasons and more than 1,400 games, the grizzled veteran hasn't signed an NHL deal.

While the next wave of wannabe pros audition for roster spots in otherwise-meaningless exhibition contests, Gelinas --whose string of series-winning goals during the Calgary Flames' improbable run to the 2004 Stanley Cup final earned him the nickname 'The Eliminator' -- is stuck playing the waiting game.

He'd love to stretch his pro career to two decades and earn a second Cup ring, but he needs a chance to prove he's still got something in the tank.

"I know in my heart that I can still do a lot of good things for a team, and even more so come playoff time," he said. "But you look at the business side of it and teams want to go with younger guys, thinking that the upside might be there, and that's not always the case.

"A lot of teams want to go with youth, which is quite normal. But those young players need some experience around them to make them better and realize what needs to be done," he added. "You need a balance. Hopefully, someone will realize that and make it happen."

With training camps in full swing, the Shawinigan, Que., native certainly isn't waiting by the phone.

Gelinas had surgery in March after tearing the ACL in his right knee, an injury that ended his campaign with the Nashville Predators, but is fully recovered. He's lifting weights and is skating for a couple of hours every day with the Calgary Dinos.

On Tuesday, while two of his former teams -- the Flames and Panthers -- opened the NHL pre-season at the Saddledome, Gelinas was at the rink watching his son, Matthew, who is playing Bantam AA in the Royals system.

He admits it's not easy to be on the outside looking in, especially with the puck set to drop on another season in less than two weeks.

"Yeah, it's really, really hard," Gelinas said. "I didn't think it would be that hard. Sometimes, I think I should've just said when I had my knee (injury), that would've been it, but I committed that I wanted to play 20 years. And for that to happen, I have to be ready.

"Is it hard? Absolutely ... You turn on the TV -- Sports-centre -- and it's all hockey, so it's hard not to be thinking about it."

Gelinas is hopeful GMs will think of him if a void needs to be filled.

"You could call it quits or you could keep going and wait for an opportunity," he said. "A lot of things can happen in camp. There's kids that aren't going to pan out. There's guys that will get injured. That's why I'm skating and getting ready -- so I'll be ready to go."


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