The melancholy filtered through the phone line.
But Saturday the multi-purpose forward suddenly found himself headed elsewhere.
“I really enjoyed my time in Hartford, but I guess it’s time to move on,” said Dupont, 24, who fulfilled a pledge to this reporter to call with any status change in the organization. “I’ve never been traded, so this is a little surprising, but Nashville failed to qualify seven free agents in time, so there might be some more openings there because they have to go to arbitration. Regardless, I’m going there and give my best shot to make the team.”
Dupont said he learned of the trade from Rangers assistant director of player personnel Jeff Gorton, who told Dupont that the organization appreciated his effort.
Dupont then heard from Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton, a longtime Springfield-area resident who played left wing for the Hartford Whalers. Fenton welcomed Dupont to the organization and said he would be “a bubble guy” for Nashville, which hired 19-year NHL veteran Kirk Muller to coach the affiliate in Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Dupont finally received a call from Rangers assistant general manager/assistant coach/Whale GM Jim Schoenfeld.
“He had a lot of nice things to say and that the organization was grateful for what I did for them and that a change of scenery could help me get to the next level,” Dupont said.
That’s certainly true, as the Rangers might soon have 12 centers and left wings of NHL calibre. They increased their numbers to nine on Saturday when they signed Dallas Stars center Brad Richards, the cream of the free-agent crop, to a nine-year, $58.5-million contract with an annual $6.5-million cap hit. They also are expected to sign their top five free agents, center Brian Boyle and former Wolf Pack forwards Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov and defenseman Michael Sauer. That should leave the Rangers with approximately $3.5 million of cap space.
“I’ve got mixed emotions because I loved the coaching staff and fans in Hartford,” Dupont said. “And we always seemed to have a great bunch of guys in the locker room. But I think the change of scenery might will me good.”
Dupont played his first NHL game Jan. 22 at Atlanta. He had 14 goals and 31 assists in 72 games with the Wolf Pack/Whale this season to finish his Hartford career with 58 goals and 90 assists in 297 games with the team. He also had one goal and four assists in 13 playoff games.
In 76 games with the Admirals last season, Thuresson had AHL career highs in assists (24), points (38), penalty minutes (41), power-play goals (five) and shots (157) and tied his career high in goals (14). A fifth-round pick of the Predators in 2007, he also was scoreless in three NHL games.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Thuresson, 23, had 53 goals and 65 assists in 277 games with the Admirals. The native of Kristianstad, Sweden, also has eight goals and 11 assists in 37 playoff games
The 6-3, 211-pound Soryal was the Wolf Pack/Whale’s leading enforcer for three seasons and likely will rejoin former Wolf Pack defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti with the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes’ top affiliate. He signed a two-way deal that will pay him $525,000 in the NHL and $80,000 in the AHL.
Soryal, signed as an undrafted free agent on March 12, 2008, had 11 goals, 14 assists and 491 penalty minutes in 189 games with the Wolf Pack and Whale. In 79 games last season, Soryal had three goals, three assists and 220 PIM, which was 11th in the league and second on the Whale to Devin DiDiomete, who also wasn’t qualified and won’t be re-signed.
“Justin is a big, physical forward that will bring an element of toughness to be organization,” Hurricanes director of hockey operations Ron Francis, a Hall of Famer who played with the Whalers, said in a statement released by the team.
GILROY SIGNS WITH LIGHTNING
Gilroy, 26, of North Bellmore, Long Island, had seven goals and 19 assists in 127 games over two seasons with the Rangers after signing a free-agent contract after winning the Hobey Baker Award and national championship with Boston University in 2009. He struggled some early on with the Rangers, but he rediscovered his game during a six-game stint with the Wolf Pack in his rookie season.
ButSauer became expendable after with the emergence of rookie Ryan McDonagh, who started last season with the Wolf Pack and then proved to be one of the major surprises for the Rangers after changing places with Michael Del Zotto on Jan. 3. Del Zotto briefly rejoined the Rangers but was returned to the Whale on March 3 and then sustained a broken finger in his first game against Springfield on March 5 and didn’t return for the remainder of the season. He also had hernia surgery in May, but Schoenfeld said Del Zotto has completely recovered and will be ready for training camp, which begins Sept. 15.
OTTAWA SENATORS RE-SIGN FORMER WOLF PACK WING LESSARD
The Ottawa Senators re-signed former Wolf Pack right wing Francis Lessard, their enforcer before Soryal, to a one-way, two-way contract.
Lessard, 32, split last season with Ottawa and its top affiliate, the Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators. He had two goals, one assist and a team-high 187 penalty minutes in 36 games in Binghamton before being called up Feb. 18. He spent the remainder of the season in the NHL, getting no points and 78 PIM in 24 games.
A third-round pick of the Hurricanes in 1997, the 6-2, 235-pound Lessard has 26 goals and 42 assists and 2,544 penalty minutes in 487 AHL games with the Wolf Pack, Philadelphia Phantoms, Chicago Wolves and San Antonio Rampage.
Besides the Rangers getting Richards, other major signings Saturday included goalie Tomas Vokoun by the Washington Capitals (one year, $1.5 million), left wing Simon Gagne by the Los Angeles Kings (two years, $7 million) and center Tim Connolly by the Toronto Maple Leafs (two years, $9.5 million).