Friday, 5 September 2014

Slovan Bratislava still on the Handzuš trail

Each year as summer turns to autumn, there are always one or two European veterans who seemingly fall off the face of the earth as their NHL contracts expire and no news is forthcoming of there whereabouts. More often than not, this is the signal of a return home to Europe. This summer, the likes of Rostislav Klesla and Mikael Samuelsson have moved back to their respective native lands in order to prolong their careers by a few more seasons with HC Oceláři Třinec and Djurgården respectively.

At 37 years of age and over 1000 NHL games to his credit, Michal Handzuš has been one of the most understated NHLers in his fifteen season career in North America. After starting out with the St. Louis Blues, Handzuš played for six teams in total, with the pinnacle of his career being the Stanley Cup victory with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012/13.

Handzuš was a major part of the Slovakia
team that won silver at the 2012 IIHF
World Championships
Photo: SITA,
However, the Banska Bystrica native is now a free agent, and with few NHL offers on the table after a disappointing 16 points in 59 games, it looks like Slovakia’s KHL representative, HC Slovan Bratislava, may be in the market for the big bodied centre. Handzuš is a player respected by many in Slovakia, not least due his commitment to the national team. Slovakia has been plagued in recent seasons with many of the now few Slovaks in the NHL refusing to attend the World Championships, but when situations have allowed, Handzuš is a regular attendee.

The news of Slovan’s pursuit of Handzuš was reiterated by Slovan General Manager Maros Krajči. quotes Krajči, who said that “with each passing day, the chance of Handzuš playing for Slovan increases“. (link)

Krajči goes on to reiterate that the option of an NHL team coming in at the eleventh hour to snatch Handzuš remains a possibility, it would be a major coup for Slovan to add a player of Handzuš‘ experience. Furthermore, especially following rumblings of financial difficulties towards the end of last season, a signing of Handzuš‘ calibre would go a long way to generating marketing interest in the team, as well as the necessary ¨bums on seats¨.

The way is perhaps paved somewhat for Handzuš, as Krajči announced to the press that Slovan had released defenceman Tomáš Mojžíš and forward Martin Bakoš (link). Since being signed from HC Lev in 2013, Mojžíš had been a solid contributor for Slovan, adding 13 points from the blueline in his one full season with Slovan. However, Slovan have spent a lot of money upgrading their blueline this summer, adding Ivan Baranka and most recently Tomáš Starosta. One would assume that financial considerations were at the heart of Mojžíš‘ release, especially while Vladimir Mihálík remains on the roster.

With the Miroslav Šatan ship now seemingly sailed into the port of retirement, the importance of Slovan adding Handzuš is not to be underestimated, especially in terms of what he adds off the ice more than anything. On the ice, Slovan kicked off the 2014/15 season in style, as new summer signing and Slovakia national team veteran Ladislav Nagy had a hattrick in his debut for the club. Check out his marvellous second goal below (play develops from 1:50 onwards), where Nagy made former Canadiens second rounder Mathieu Carle look like a beer leaguer with a lovely piece of skill.

If Handzuš is to join Slovan, I can’t imagine he will don the eagle crest for a couple of weeks at least. However, with the team now flying out to Russia for a three game road trip where they will face Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg and Ak Bars Kazan, presumably Krajči and the rest of the backroom staff in Bratislava will have less distraction in order to tempt Handzuš to join the Sky Blues (Belasí).

1 comment: