BUFFALO – Tyson Strachan’s only human, you know. So while the veteran said his confidence never wavered looking for work during the summer, thoughts about his uncertain future crept into his head.
As the weeks dragged on without a contract, the gritty former Sabres defenseman wondered if he might have to play overseas or complete his degree at Ohio State University.
“I’d be lying to say those things don’t come into your mind,” Strachan said earlier this month inside KeyBank Center. “Obviously, you think about everything that’s possible. At the end of the day, you’re confident. There’s nothing you can do about it other than just get yourself prepared.”
Finally, the Sabres showed interest, bringing Strachan back to the organization on a one-year AHL contract Sept. 14.
“This was a good opportunity coming in and knowing management, knowing a lot of the guys,” Strachan said. “I’m in a comfortable situation.”
Strachan, 31, spent all of 2014-15 with the Sabres, playing a career-high 46 NHL games. In a truly awful season, he was one of the few bright spots, establishing himself as a solid depth defender.
“I loved my year here,” Strachan said. “Buffalo’s a great city. I was happy to come back here and be a part of it.”
But unless the Sabres rework Strachan’s contract into a two-way deal, he will be parked with the Rochester Americans all season.
Considering the dearth of experienced defensemen in the organization, a contract upgrade isn’t too far-fetched.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma talked about Strachan like he could be in the queue for a recall. Bylsma planned to give Strachan some exhibition action before an ankle injury sidelined him.
“Hopefully, at some point … I get some time back up here,” said Strachan, who attended Buffalo’s training camp on a pro tryout. “At the same time, if I’m down there the whole year, I’m excited about it.”
Other than Strachan’s one year with Buffalo, he has spent at least a portion of every season since 2008-09 in the AHL. Still, the Saskatchewan native is used to earning recalls. He has played 186 NHL games, including two last season with the Minnesota Wild.
So this season could be “a little bit different,” Strachan said.
“But I think your mindset’s still the same,” he said. “You’re coming to work every day. Anything can change, right? That’s been the story of my career. I’ve done that from Day One.”
That was nine seasons ago, when Strachan began his pro career with a brief ECHL stint. These days, Strachan is the Amerks’ oldest player.
“You start to kind of embrace that older guy attitude, right?” he said. “You want to help out the young kids.”
For graybeards like Strachan, finding work has become difficult. The NHL has become a young man’s league, and established talent is getting squeezed out.
“It’s the first summer that I haven’t signed in (the) first few days of free agency, so it was tough,” Strachan said. “It’s a hard thing to sum up, I guess. Obviously, you’re always confident in what you can do. But it’s just the way it’s gone the last few years coming out of the last CBA. It’s tougher for older guys.
“Some days are good, some days are bad. Some days you’re worried that you need to find a new line of work. Some days you’re just confident.”
Former Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, now with Canucks, will dress for tonight’s contest in Vancouver against his old team. Miller missed last game because “a muscle didn’t want to settle down,” he said.