Even in the worst of times, Ryan Carter keeps his sense of humor.
The White Bear Lake native joked that he planned to eat Lean Cuisine’s chicken with almonds Sunday night now that he was no longer invited to the Wild’s team dinner.
Carter, who spent the past two seasons with his hometown Wild but attended training camp on a tryout, told the Star Tribune that he was delivered the difficult news Sunday that he had been anticipating.
The Wild won’t be offering him a contract.
What’s worse, Carter, a 10-year NHL veteran who played college hockey at Minnesota State Mankato, now plans to undergo surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder that threatens to end his career.
“The timing of it isn’t great for myself or my career, but you’ve got to be healthy to play, at least I do at my age and the way I’ve got to play,” Carter said during a phone interview. “There’s legitimate concern that this could be the end. Being a realist, I’m 33 years old and went into camp on a PTO [professional tryout]. It’s a five-month rehab. It’ll be difficult to play my way back to the NHL on short notice after really eight or nine months off.”
Carter said GM Chuck Fletcher didn’t close that door. Technically, unrestricted free agents can be signed by the March 1 trade deadline in order to be playoff-eligible.
“He was really good and fair,” Carter said of Fletcher.
The Wild also placed Zac Dalpe on waivers. With Carter gone, the Wild could get down to its maximum 23-player opening night roster if Dalpe is assigned to Iowa on Monday. But coach Bruce Boudreau said Dalpe won’t necessarily be assigned, that Fletcher is simply creating roster flexibility if there’s a trade or waiver pickup that can be made before Thursday’s opener.
There are rumblings that backup goalie Darcy Kuemper is back on the trading block (San Jose may be in the market for a backup). It is odd that third goalie Alex Stalock remains, as of now, on the roster.
Carter came to camp with the bum shoulder, opting not to have an MRI this summer because he knew if he needed surgery, there wasn’t a chance he’d land a job.
“The pain wasn’t the bad part,” he said. “I started to lose my strength and my ability to win battles. What ended up happening, I popped out a rib because I kept trying to protect my shoulder all the time. I couldn’t breathe anymore.
“The last couple practices, I couldn’t even move. I was terrible, but I didn’t say something because I knew it would be over.”
Finally, Carter had no choice and went for an MRI.
“That was a crummy day because when I got the results, I knew what it meant,” Carter said.
Carter, who has played 473 career games, won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007 before even playing a regular-season game. He also went to the Stanley Cup Final with New Jersey in 2012.
He doesn’t want to think that this could be it.
“I’m just trying to block those thoughts out because they are actually realistic thoughts now. Is this the end?” Carter said. “At the same time, if it’s not the end, coming back would kind of be what my career was about, kind of fighting and clawing and finding a way to stay in the league. It’s not been glamorous by any stretch of the imagination.”
Standing on the sidelines this season will be torturous, regardless.
“I was telling my wife, the sad part is this is the first time I won’t be on a team of some sort in pretty much my whole life that I can remember,” Carter said. “I won’t be in a locker room for the first time, so it’s a little challenging. I think I’ll miss that.”