CALGARY - Mike Cammalleri insists he did not pick the wrong Canadian city.
On July 1, 2009, the kid from Richmond Hill sat in the Maple Leafs offices on
Bay St. listening to the free-agent pitch from the team he grew up watching.
In the end, it wasn’t enough.
Cammalleri ended up signing a five-year, $30-million US deal with the rival Montreal Canadiens on that very day, causing many Leafs fans to lament over the one that got away.
Cammalleri had an up-and-down stint with the Habs. While he and goalie Carey Price spearheaded Montreal’s run to the Eastern Conference final two seasons ago, the offensively gifted forward has struggled this season and was finally traded to Calgary last month.
Now, with the Leafs in town, the question to Cammalleri seemed to be an obvious one.
If you had to do it all over again, would you have signed with the Leafs?
“It didn’t really ever get to that point,” Cammalleri said. “I never really got a formal offer from them.”
Cammalleri is not bitter. Nor is he vindictive.
In fact, he understands where the Leafs were coming from, especially since it was Brian Burke’s first free-agent period as general manager of the Maple Leafs.
“Burkie had a lot of things on the go,” Cammalleri explained. “They had a lot of irons in the fire. They were in the middle of a huge rebuild and were looking in a number of different directions.
“They were very fair with me and laid everything out in front of me.”
Before Cammalleri could fully digest what the Leafs had explained to him, the Habs were tossing a multi-year deal averaging $6 million per season at him.
It was an offer he simply could not refuse.
“You have to understand, things move fast and furious on the opening day of free agency,” Cammalleri said. “I don’t regret the decision I made.
“I had some great times in Montreal. As for this season, I’ve never had such a tough unproductive one, whether it be on the scoresheet or because of injury.
“I’m happy to be a Flame again. It’s like wiping the slate clean.”
Cammalleri entered Tuesday’s game against the Leafs with just 12 goals and a plus-minus of minus-13.