SUN Hockey Pool

Place your Betts on forward

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Blair Betts has never been in this position.

The former New York Rangers centre has always known where he'll be plying his trade in the upcoming season.

This year, however, the local product is looking for a job.

That's surprising, considering the relatively low price tag for his penalty-killing and faceoff prowess.

"Things have been pretty quiet for about a month now," Betts said yesterday.

"I'm not sure what's going to happen. We'll just have to continue to wait for a couple of weeks and see what happens."

Betts, 29, is one of a number of professionals skating at Perry Pearn's three-on-three camp at the northside Knights of Columbus arena in preparation for the upcoming season.

He's also one of a handful of free agents yet to sign with a team.

Ex-Oiler Mike Comrie, who is also attending the camp, is another.

"I don't know why I haven't signed somewhere yet; it'll be interesting to talk to some of the other guys who haven't signed either, and kind of hear what's been going on with them," Betts said.

"As far as I know, there might still be a few teams that are interested. But right now, there are a lot of teams that are pretty close to the salary cap and are dealing with some tough numbers right now.

" It's a tough time for a lot of people right now, but what can you do? You just have to be patient."

A former second-round pick (33rd overall) of the Calgary Flames, Betts spent the last four seasons with the Rangers.

Last season he scored six goals and added four assists in 81 games, predominantly in a checking role.

He was a big part of the Rangers league-best penalty-killing unit and was counted on to take important draws. Yet the team was not interested in bringing him back this season.

"I wasn't really surprised, to be honest with you," Betts said.

"The meeting at the end of the year with (GM) Glen (Sather) and the coaching staff, everything was positive. But I just had a feeling that my run there was over and they were going to go into another direction."

With the Oilers' weak penalty killing and with no one outside of Shawn Horcoff able to win a draw for Edmonton last season, it seems likely the six-foot-three, 210-pound Betts would be a good fit here.

However, with just over $1 million in salary cap space available, the Oilers would have to move a body in order to make room for Betts, who made $615,000 last season.

The Oilers, though, have shown little interest in Betts.

"It's difficult," said Oilers defenceman Jason Strudwick. "I went through it a few years ago; I waited until the end of August and then went to play in Europe.

"It's not easy. I think some of the advice I've given some of these guys is to just keep working out and keep preparing, because they will be part of some team.

"Those two guys (Betts and Comrie) are really good players.

"You can't lose focus of what you're trying to do, both this year and with your career going forward."


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