With National Hockey League training camps opening this weekend, two former University of Maine players with extensive NHL resumes are looking for work.
A reduced 56-game regular season schedule — a regular season typically consists of 82 games — will begin on Jan. 13.
Goalie Jimmy Howard, 36, and defenseman Ben Hutton, 27, are both unrestricted free agents who hadn’t caught on with any teams as of Thursday.
Three other former UMaine stars with significant NHL experience — centers Gustav Nyquist and Devin Shore and goalie Ben Bishop — will return for another NHL season. Bishop had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in October and isn’t expected to return to the Dallas Stars until at least March.
Nyquist plays for Columbus and Shore has gone from Columbus to Edmonton.
Another former Black Bear, left wing Ryan Lomberg, has moved on from the Calgary organization to the Florida Panthers, where he will join UMaine product Brady Keeper, a defenseman.
Former UMaine captains and linemates Chase Pearson and Mitch Fossier are in the Detroit and Chicago organizations, respectively, with Pearson in his second full pro season and Fossier playing in his first after graduating from UMaine.
Goalie Jeremy Swayman, who won the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s best goalie last season and was a Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist, trades in his Black Bear uniform for Boston Bruins colors.
Howard, who appeared in 543 regular season games for the Detroit Red Wings and is among the prestigious franchise’s all-time leaders in several goaltending categories, did not receive a contract offer from the Red Wings after a subpar 2019-20 season.
Hutton, who played for the Los Angeles Kings on a one-year deal last season after four seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, is rumored to be on the Boston Bruins’ radar after the Bruins bid farewell to captain Zdeno Chara.
Chara, who spent 14 seasons with the Bruins and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2011, signed with the Washington Capitals.
Hutton has appeared in 341 regular season games with Vancouver and the Kings.
Howard has a career record of 246-196-70 with a 2.62 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. But last season was the worst of his 15-year pro career as he was 2-23-2 with a 4.20 GAA and a .882 save percentage.
Hutton played in 65 games for the Kings and had four goals and 12 assists. But he was plus-five in the plus-minus category, which was second best on the team and tops among the Kings defensemen. A player receives a plus-one if he is on the ice when his team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal, and a minus-one if the opposing team scores one.
Detroit and Los Angeles failed to make the playoffs.
Hutton has 15 goals and 71 assists for 86 points in 341 career games.
Shore will be playing for his fourth team in three years after spending last season with Anaheim and Columbus. He was in the Dallas organization for three and a half years.
Shore had five goals and seven assists in 45 games between Anaheim and Columbus and now has 39 goals and 67 assists for 106 points in 288 career games.
Bishop, a three-time finalist for the Vezina Trophy given to the NHL’s top goalie, has a career record of 222-122-36 with a 2.32 GAA and .921 save percentage. He was 21-16-4, 2.50, .920 with Dallas a year ago.
Nyquist had a solid season for former UMaine winger John Tortorella, the head coach of the Blue Jackets, as he had 15 goals and 27 assists in 70 games. He now has 146 goals and 202 assists in 570 NHL games.
Lomberg played seven career games for Calgary and had an assist; Keeper has played one regular season game and one playoff game for the Panthers; and Pearson has yet to play in the NHL. All three played in the American Hockey League a year ago.
UMaine’s all-time leading scorer, Jim Montgomery, begins his new job as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues. Montgomery began last season as the second-year head coach of Dallas, but was fired for unprofessional behavior stemming from alcohol abuse.
He went through an alcohol rehabilitation program and is closing in on a year of sobriety.