Much to the surprise of Rudolfs Balcers, the San Jose Sharks bought out his contract this past off-season.
“I didn’t know beforehand,” Balcers said yesterday after Florida Panthers practiced at SAP Center, on the eve of their match-up against the Sharks tonight. “I just kind of found out online. It was a shitty feeling.”
Sharks management did call to explain their decision, but Balcers says he was so out of sorts, he doesn’t remember the particulars of what was said.
The San Jose Sharks’ 2015 fifth-round pick was a piece of the trade that sent Erik Karlsson to the Sharks in 2018. He returned to San Jose in January 2021 after being claimed off waivers from Ottawa.
“It’s nice coming back; it was a good couple of years,” Balcers recalled. “It was fun being in San Jose playing for the Sharks.”
In 61 games for the Sharks last season, Balcers set career highs in goals with 11 and assists with 12.
“I think we had something going on,” Balcers said about his late-season chemistry with Noah Gregor and Thomas Bordeleau. “I thought it was fun playing with those guys.”
Per Natural Stat Trick, the line combined for five goals during Bordeleau’s eight-game cup of coffee with the big club late last year.
At least the Latvian forward didn’t have to wait long to figure out where he was playing next, as he signed a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum the day after hitting the open market.
We have agreed to terms with forward Rudolfs Balcers on a one-year contract.
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) July 14, 2022
“We’ve used him all over left wing and right wing on different lines,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said about the former Shark. “He’s become one of those very versatile players for us.”
The Panthers coaching staff has not been shy about moving Balcers throughout the line-up.
“He came into camp, we played him with [Aleksander] Barkov, we played him with [Sam] Bennett, and we played him with [Anton] Lundell,” Maurice added. “If something hits, we’ll run it until it gets cold and keep moving people that way.”
Balcers welcomed himself to Panthers fans as he scored a go-ahead goal off a pass from Bennett in the third period during the team’s home opener on Oct. 19. He then followed up with a score in the following game.
Balcers, however, is still trying to find his overall footing in Florida. He has two goals and an assist in 10 games with Florida and his icetime has dropped into the single digits in two of the last three contests.
“I can’t really say I’m super happy about how’s [my play] been so far,” the winger acknowledged. “Season is still so fresh.”
There’s no doubt Balcers, described as “a serious guy” by Maurice, will be happy if he can break out against his old friends tonight.
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