SUMMERSIDE – Goaltender Drew MacIntyre has found himself in this position before.
MacIntyre, who played the past two seasons with the Toronto Marlies, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, is an unrestricted free agent for at least the “sixth or seventh time” in his career. Teams can sign new free agents starting on Canada Day.
“I have had quite a few of these July 1sts, so I know what they are about,” said MacIntyre, who was a celebrity at the 25th anniversary of the Sports Celebrity Festival luncheon in Summerside on Tuesday. “You are actually allowed to start talking to teams on the 25th (of June), which has never been the case. . . It will be nice to gauge some interest if there is any.
“I am still hopeful to re-sign with Toronto.”
MacIntyre can sign with the Leafs any time, but cannot sign with a new team until July 1 as he prepares for his 12th season of professional hockey.
MacIntyre explained he “was kind of in no-mans land a couple of years ago,” and he acknowledged the Leafs gave him a job when no one else would.
“It’s been a classy, classy organization and really good people,” said MacIntyre. “Our family loves it there, it’s nice to be in Canada.”
If things do not work out with the Leafs, MacIntyre says he is “definitely willing” to test free agency. His numbers indicate there should be some interest.
In 48 regular-season games with the Marlies, “Uncle Drew” as he is known by his teammates, recorded 29 wins, a 2.53 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.
MacIntyre had even better numbers in 14 playoff games, backstopping the Marlies to the semifinals against the eventual Calder Cup-champion Texas Stars while posting a 2.08 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.
“We took the best team in the league to Game 7,” recalled MacIntyre. “The frustrating thing is we felt we would have had a really good chance against St. John’s in the finals if we had of pulled it out. . . It was a really fun ride.”
First NHL start
Without doubt the highlight of MacIntyre’s 2013-14 season was his first-ever NHL start for the Leafs. He made 33 saves in a 4-2 loss against the Florida Panthers on April 10.
“After 11 years pro and 30-years-old, to start my first (NHL) game, it was a blessing,” said MacIntyre. “I am really thankful for it.
“It was worth the wait, and it’s too bad the Leafs were put out of the playoffs and didn’t mean anything as far as that was concerned. It still meant a lot to me, and it’s nice to get the first one out of the way. Hopefully, it’s not my last.”
There is speculation the Leafs may move James Reimer, which would open up the back-up position behind Jonathan Bernier. If that unfolds, MacIntyre’s name has been mentioned as a candidate.
MacIntyre added Reimer “is a good friend,” and he’s hopeful everything will work out for him.
Regardless how things play out, one thing MacIntyre has learned to appreciate during his pro career is to take nothing for granted.
“Especially after two years ago, East Coast league teams were not even returning my calls,” said MacIntyre. “It was quite an eye-opener, it was humbling and I am thankful every time I step on the ice because I do not know when it will be my last.”
Pro teams that Drew
MacIntyre has played on:
Toledo Storm, East Coast Hockey League (ECHL)
Grand Rapids Griffins, American Hockey League (AHL)
Manitoba Moose, AHL
Vancouver Canucks, National Hockey League (NHL)
Milwaukee Admirals, AHL
Chicago Wolves, AHL
Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Rochester Americans, AHL
Buffalo Sabres, NHL
Prague Lev, Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)
Toronto Maple Leafs